After an impressive football career of almost twenty years with Ajax, Hamburger SV, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur, among others, Rafael van der Vaart hung his football boots on the willows for good in 2018. In the meantime, the 109-fold international can regularly be seen on television as an analyst at NOS Studio Sport and on German television.
Rafael van der Vaart has experienced many successes in his role as captain of the Dutch national team and clubs such as Ajax, Hamburger SV, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. Using beautiful anecdotes, he knows how to make the link to leadership, perseverance and teamwork. In his interview-based presentations, he takes listeners into his impressive football career and answers questions from the audience.
Rafael van der Vaart (February 11, 1983) played with Ajax, Hamburger SV, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Betis Sevilla, among others, but also played up to 109 internationals for the Dutch Team (plus 35 internationals with the national youth teams). In 2003, he received the first prestigious Golden Boy, the award for the greatest football talent in the world. In the years that followed, this award was given to other great talents like Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappé and last year Matthijs de Ligt. Rafael van der Vaart played five final tournaments: two World Championships (2006, 2010) and three European Championships (2004, 2008, 2012). On the 2010 World Cup, the Dutch Team played in the final. In his professional career, Rafael scored about 200 goals for his clubs and the Dutch National Team and was one of the most scoring midfielders in Europe for a decade.
As a textbook example from the famous Ajax training, Rafael van der Vaart made his debut in professional football on April 19, 2000. At the age of ten, he started with Ajax and would eventually play 157 official duels in the main force and score 63 goals for Ajax. Rafael also won the Golden Boy Award in this period as the most talented footballer under 21 years of age. With Ajax, Rafael became national champion twice, won the KNVB Cup once and the Johan Cruijff Scale once. In 2005 Rafael continued his football career in the Bundesliga at Hamburger SV. Also here Rafael, just like with Ajax, quickly became captain and reached the Champions League. He was named soccer player of the month September 2005 in the Bundesliga and ended that season second in the election for best Bundesliga player of the year 2005-2006. HSV became one of the main assailants of frontrunner Bayern Munich, they eventually finished in third place and Rafael became club top scorer. For a year and a half, HSV did not lose any away time when Rafael played. He scored world goals for 'Die Rothosen' and won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2005 and 2007. Rafael was in great shape and that was noticed by the top European clubs.
In 2008 Rafael made a mega transfer to Real Madrid. In his first season at Real Madrid (2008-2009), Rafael played at number 10 excellently and played a total of 42 games. That year, Rafael was one of the nominees for the Ballon d'Or which eventually went to Cristiano Ronaldo, then still playing for Manchester United. After that first season Florentino Pérez became the new president of Real Madrid and with him came the new team members such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Kaká. All Dutchmen (including Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar) had to leave, including Rafael. He was told that he was only the 6th choice on his position (the number 10): Raul, Guti, Kaka, Granero and the great talent Sergio Canales, but he decided to stay and fight back. In the end, Rafael became a base player again and was chosen by the coach on his own number 10 position above all mentioned players and ended that season in the top five of both the club's top scorers and assists list. By the end of that 2009/2010 season, the team had scored the most goals with Van der Vaart and achieved a record number of points in the history of the Primera Division. However, they were not the only ones and so it happened that the title went to FC Barcelona despite that record.
In 2010 Rafael made the step to Tottenham Hotspur. In his first season with the Spurs (2010-2011), Rafael was voted best footballer of the month of October in the English Premier League, making him only the fifth Dutchman ever to receive this award. He also became club top scorer of the Spurs that first season and for two seasons he was the driving force and leader of the sparkling team including Gareth Bale, Luca Modric, Aaron Lennon, and Peter Crouch. The club played for the championship again for a long time, qualified and played in the Champions League.
After two seasons of Premier League, Rafael van der Vaart returned to Hamburger SV for a second period of three years. He eventually played 152 games for HSV over two periods, scoring 45 goals and becoming (one of) the most popular player(s) of all time at the club. After his period at Hamburger SV, Rafael played at the Spanish Real Betis. In this period Rafael got a relationship with Dutch handball star Estavana Polman who played in the Danish handball league. It made him decide to play soccer in Denmark with FC Midtjylland and later Esbjerg fB.
As international, Rafael van der Vaart played 109 games for the Dutch national team. In total, Van der Vaart played in five final games for the Dutch national team. He played on the European Championships in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and the World Championships in 2006 and 2010. Rafael scored twenty-five times in the shirt of the Dutch national team. In addition, he was a regular captain, including during the World Cup final in 2010 against Spain. On 13 October 2018, during his official farewell to the Dutch national team, Van der Vaart was appointed federal knight of the KNVB because of his many years of experience in Dutch football. Since 2016 he has been working as a regular television analyst for the NOS during final and qualifying matches of the Dutch national team. Since 2018 he also participates in the programme Studio Voetbal and is regularly active as an analyst for foreign media.
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