Van der Vaart at practice with HSV in 2014
|Full name||Rafael Ferdinand van der Vaart|
|Date of birth||11 February 1983|
|Place of birth||Heemskerk, Netherlands|
|Height||1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking midfielder|
| * Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league onlyand correct as of 7 October 2018 (UTC)|
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 19 November 2013
Rafael Ferdinand van der Vaart (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈraːfaːɛl vɑn dɛr ˈvaːrt] (
Van der Vaart began his career at Ajax's youth academy and worked his way into the first team, debuting as a 17-year-old. Known for his playmaking skills, he drew comparisons to Johan Cruyff. He was named Dutch Football Talent of the Year and became the first recipient of the Golden Boy Award while at the club. He moved to Bundesliga club Hamburger SV, then to Real Madrid, then on to Tottenham Hotspur before returning to Hamburg in 2012. In the latter stages of his career, Van der Vaart had brief spells playing in Spain and Denmark before announcing his retirement in 2018.
Van der Vaart earned 109 caps for the Netherlands between 2001 and 2013. He represented the nation at three UEFA European Championships and two FIFA World Cups, reaching the final in 2010.
Van der Vaart was born in Heemskerk to a Dutch father and a Spanish mother from Chiclana de la Frontera, Cádiz.Before joining Ajax, he played for a local club called De Kennemers based in Beverwijk. He grew up on a trailer park, living a "gypsy life", and often pretended to be Romário while playing football. It was at the trailer park that he learned how to play football and, at the age of ten, he joined the AFC Ajax Academy. Van der Vaart has said of his upbringing, "That was the way my family lived. My father was born there and it is a lifestyle. Maybe it is not a normal lifestyle but I always liked it. I always played football on the street. It was an easy life, then I was 10 years old and went to Ajax and played there for almost 12 years."
Van der Vaart came through the ranks at Ajax with national teammates John Heitinga and Wesley Sneijder. Initially, he signed for Ajax on a trial basis as a ten-year-old, but was eventually enrolled permanently after impressing the coaches. At the age of 17, Van der Vaart made his debut for the Ajax senior side in a 1–1 draw with FC Den Bosch on 19 April 2000 in the 1999–00 season. After he broke into the Ajax first team, Van der Vaart was "hailed as the new Johan Cruyff".
In the 2000–01 season, Ajax manager Co Adriaanse increased Van der Vaart's playing time by moving him to the attacking midfielder position. He was voted European Talent of the Year by Italian football website CalcioManager.
The next season, Van der Vaart suffered a serious knee injury and was out for several months. Shortly after returning to action, he re-injured the same knee on 2 April 2002, requiring an operation that involved the removal of his entire meniscus This injury forced him to miss the run-in to Ajax’s successful Eredivisie campaign and their Dutch Cup triumph against Utrecht in the 2001–02 season, but it did not stop him being named the Netherlands' Talent of the Year.
In 2002–03, Ajax won the Amsterdam Tournament, though injury limited Van der Vaart to 21 league appearances, in which he scored 18 goals. After his return to fitness, he scored a vital goal in the UEFA Champions League away to Lyon, which propelled Ajax into the knockout stages.
In the first half of 2003–04, his performances were poor. Van der Vaart admitted he was overweight, and the media criticized his celebrity lifestyle with his then-fiancée, The Music Factory VJ Sylvie Meis.He became an influential figure once again as Ajax claimed another league title. By that stage, Van der Vaart had firmly established himself as one of the stars of the Ajax team, as well as one of the most popular players in the Netherlands.
Van der Vaart was named team captain by coach Ronald Koeman for the 2004–05 season. During an international match against Sweden on 18 August 2004, he was injured by then-Ajax teammate Zlatan Ibrahimović, which led to the sale of Ibrahimović to Juventus two weeks later, following controversial accusations that the Swede had intentionally tried to hurt Van der Vaart. As a result, Van der Vaart took Ibrahimović's spot as striker.He was unhappy at being played out of position, and following his refusal to play on the wing in a Champions League match in December, he was stripped of the team captaincy by Koeman.
In September, a league match against ADO Den Haag was temporarily halted by the officials due to incessant chants by opposing fans directed at Meis.The incident, coupled with his ongoing injury problems that resulted in an average of only 23 league appearances in five seasons with Ajax, led him to announce that he was leaving the club at the end of the year.
At this point, Van der Vaart's performances were attracting interest from some of Europe’s top clubs. He had previously been strongly linked to Milan, but in the summer of 2005, he signed for Bundesliga outfit Hamburger SV in Germany. Van der Vaart's €5.5 million transfer to Hamburg, on 1 June 2005, raised many eyebrows. Many other top-flight clubs had shown interest in the midfielder but he chose Hamburg. Ajax legend Johan Cruyff himself commented in his De Telegraaf column, "I don't know what to say about it or what Rafael van der Vaart is doing in Hamburg." He played a massive part in Hamburg’s impressive away form that season, scoring in each of their first four games on the road; in fact, in the course of his first one and a half seasons with the German club, they did not lose a single match away from home while he was on the pitch. Van der Vaart finished his first season as the team's top scorer as Hamburg finished third in the league and won the 2005 UEFA Intertoto Cup.
He assumed the team captaincy for the 2006–07 season. This season proved to be a difficult one for his club, and despite Van der Vaart's three goals in the Champions League group stages, they made an early exit from the competition, while languishing for several months in the bottom half of the Bundesliga table as Van der Vaart was troubled by injuries throughout the season. The arrival of Van der Vaart's countryman Huub Stevens as head coach, however, saw Hamburg march up the standings and they finished the season in a respectable seventh place, qualifying for, and also winning, the Intertoto Cup.
After garnering interest from Real Madrid from Spain, Van der Vaart responded by saying, "I am set to spend another season in Hamburg," of which he told Welt am Sonntag . He further added, "Now we have the team to achieve something." In the 2007–08 season, Van der Vaart scored 12 league goals as Hamburg finished fourth in the league, while reaching the round of 16 in the UEFA Cup. During the UEFA Cup away win at FC Zürich, he tore ankle ligaments and was out of action for several weeks. Despite interest from other clubs such as Chelseaand Valencia, he stated that he would stay at Hamburg until the end of the season, but opted out of signing a contract extension.
Towards the end of the 2007–08 season, Van der Vaart was linked to a move to several clubs including Atlético Madrid and Juventus. Atlético made a €15 million bid for the Dutchman, which Hamburg rejected, and in the end, it was their cross-town rivals who got Van der Vaart's signature instead.
On 4 August 2008, Real Madrid and Hamburg reached a €13 million agreement for Van der Vaart's transfer, Real Madrid's only summer signing. He signed a five-year contract for an undisclosed amount. Van der Vaart debuted in a 2–1 pre-season win four days later, against Colombian side Independiente Santa Fé, where he scored the equalising goal and provided an assist for the winner.
He changed his squad number from 19 to his favored number 23 after teammate Wesley Sneijder took number 10 following Robinho's departure to Manchester City on 31 August.He marked his league debut for Real Madrid with a strike against Numancia in a 4–3 victory. On 24 September, he scored his first career hat-trick in a 7–1 thrashing of Sporting de Gijón. In October 2008, Van der Vaart was one of the many La Liga players to be nominated for the Ballon d'Or, but the award eventually went to Manchester United forward and future teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. For the latter part of the 2008–09 season, Van der Vaart was mostly utilized as an impact substitute by coach Juande Ramos, which led to speculations of a fall-out between coach and player. Despite transfer rumors linking him with Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, he denied having any links with the English clubs.
During the summer of 2009, it was speculated that van der Vaart would leave Real Madrid after being told he was not going to be part of the team's plans by coach Manuel Pellegrini. His number 23 jersey was even handed to Esteban Granero in preseason, leaving him without a squad number. Towards the end of the summer transfer window, however, he eventually came to an agreement with Real Madrid to stay with the club after the squad size had been reduced to 25 players as Dutch compatriots Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar were forced to leave the club. Van der Vaart was handed his original number 23 jersey while Granero was given number 24. After a wait of four games, Van der Vaart was finally included in Pellegrini's squad list to face Villarreal on 23 September.An injury to Kaká gave Van der Vaart a chance to establish himself as a key player for Los Blancos again. On 20 December, he scored two goals in a 6–0 win against Real Zaragoza. He scored his last goal for Real Madrid against Málaga on 16 May 2010. Van der Vaart stated his desire to stay at Real Madrid, at least until the end of his contract.
On 31 August 2010, two hours before the transfer window closed, Tottenham Hotspur made an offer of £8 million for Van der Vaart. According to Spurs manager Harry Redknapp, an £18 million transfer to Bayern Munich had collapsed the day before and Van der Vaart had suddenly become much cheaper, although such a price reduction was later denied by Real Madrid. Due to problems with computer servers used in the transaction between Tottenham and Real Madrid, preventing the necessary paperwork from being completed, Spurs requested special dispensation from the Premier League to allow the transfer to proceed. The Premier League confirmed on 1 September that the transfer had been permitted after they gave Tottenham special dispensation due to "technical problems". He signed a four-year contract at White Hart Lane. It was announced that Van der Vaart would wear the number 11 shirt for Spurs. Van der Vaart later denied speculation that he had been a failure at Real Madrid, claiming that he always gave his best over the last few years for both club and country, and that he wanted to show his quality for his new club.
Van der Vaart made his Premier League debut for Spurs in a 1–1 draw against West Bromwich Albion on 11 September 2010,and his Champions League bow for the club three days later against Werder Bremen, providing an assist for Peter Crouch in a 2–2 draw. Van der Vaart scored his first Premier League goal from the penalty spot in a 3–1 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on 18 September 2010. After starting his Spurs career by scoring three goals in four Premier League matches, and with a goal and an assist in two Champions League matches, Van der Vaart was named Goal.com World Player of the Week on 4 October 2010. He was later named Premier League Player of the Month for October. A hamstring injury kept Van der Vaart out of action for much of December, but he returned to the Tottenham side on Boxing Day, scoring both goals in a 2–1 away win over Aston Villa. On 20 April, Van der Vaart revived Tottenham's Champions League ambitions by scoring twice to hold North London rivals Arsenal to a 3–3 draw at White Hart Lane. From then onwards, Van der Vaart became a fan favourite at White Hart Lane. After losing to Manchester City and being knocked out of the Champions League race, Spurs traveled to Anfield. Van der Vaart scored from 25 yards out in a 2–0 win that put Tottenham in position to secure qualification for the Europa League. He ended the season as Spurs' top scorer in the Premier League, scoring 13 goals – nearly a quarter of Tottenham's total – while also providing the most assists, with nine.
Van der Vaart scored his first two Premier League goals of the following season against Wigan Athleticand Arsenal. Van der Vaart scored a penalty away against Newcastle United on 16 October to keep up a good run of goal scoring form and also scored twice in the 2–1 win over Blackburn Rovers. On 30 October, he continued this brilliant run of scoring form with his side's second in a 3–1 win over Queens Park Rangers, making it six goals in five games for the Dutchman and equalling a Tottenham record by scoring in five consecutive Premier League matches, a record he shares with Teddy Sheringham and Robbie Keane. On 31 December, he scored away to Swansea City, converting a Benoît Assou-Ekotto cross. Van der Vaart scored a long-range effort against Watford in the FA Cup to send Tottenham through to the next round of the competition with a 1–0 victory. He was on the pitch at White Hart Lane on 17 March 2012 when Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba went into cardiac arrest; Van der Vaart later described it as "horrible to witness ... the absolute low in my football career". He scored his tenth goal of the season against Blackburn Rovers on 29 April, and scored again in his next match, a 4–1 win over Bolton. He also assisted the opening goal for Luka Modrić with a corner.
Despite talk of a summer transfer back to the Bundesliga with Hamburger SV and Schalke 04 touted as possible destinations Van der Vaart reaffirmed his desire to stay with Tottenham. However, with the transfers on the last couple of days of the window of Mousa Dembélé and Clint Dempsey from Fulham and the earlier addition of Gylfi Sigurðsson, it became clear that Spurs had a glut of new midfield talent which would have reduced any game time for Van der Vaart.
On 31 August 2012, Van der Vaart returned to his former club, Hamburger SV.He would wear his favourite 23 number on the shirt and was announced as club's vice-captain. On 16 September, he made his second debut with HSV in a match against Eintracht Frankfurt. On 22 September, Van der Vaart provided two assists against Borussia Dortmund, contributing to two crucial goals in HSV's narrow 3–2 win. He scored his first goal of the season with a screamer in a 2–2 away draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach, later suffering a serious injury that left him out of action for several months.
Van der Vaart made his return to action on 20 January 2013 against 1. FC Nürnberg in a 1–1 draw. On 9 April, he was named the club's captain, succeeding Heiko Westermann. Not having scored for almost two months, Van der Vaart scored a brace on 20 April 2013 against Fortuna Düsseldorf in a 2–1 home win. Hamburg later decided not to give van der Vaart a contract extension.
Van der Vaart joined newly promoted Spanish club Real Betis on a free transfer in June 2015.He made his debut for the club on 24 September in a 2–1 La Liga defeat to Deportivo de La Coruña.
On 31 July 2016, Van der Vaart was spotted in a skybox at MCH Arena just outside Herning alongside agents Alan Hvedehave and Mikkel Beckmann, both before and during the league game between Danish Superliga clubs FC Midtjylland and Silkeborg IF.Following the match, in a live interview with Danish Eurosport 2, Midtjylland sporting director Claus Steinlein denied any ongoing negotiations, stating that Midtjylland would not be able to live up to Van der Vaart's economic demands. Just four days later, however, ahead of the 2016–17 UEFA Europa League third round qualifying match against Videoton, Steinlein confirmed that the club was in fact trying to work out a deal to bring in Van der Vaart.
On 10 August, Van der Vaart joined Midtjylland on a two-year deal.On 28 August, Van der Vaart made his Superliga debut, coming on as a substitute for Nigerian striker Paul Onuachu in a 0–0 draw away to local rivals Viborg FF. Less than a month later, in his fourth appearance for his new side, Van der Vaart scored the first Superliga goal of his career in a 5–2 win at home against promoted team Horsens. On 11 December 2016, Van der Vaart scored his second goal in a 1-2 defeat against Brøndby IF. After coming in as a substitute in a match against Lyngby BK on 28 May 2017 he was selected for only one of the first teams matches until 9 February 2018 where he was on the bench in a 2-0 win against AC Horsens. On 18 February 2018 Van der Vaart made his first appearance for the first team in the 2017-18 season coming in as a substitute in the 90th minute. Van der Vaart told NOS, "I wasn't selected for half a year. That's why this is a celebration for me. Not playing is awful."
On 4 August 2018 it was made public that Van der Vaart had signed a one-year contract with Danish Superliga club Esbjerg fB.He had been rumoured to join the club after his contract with FC Midtjylland ended in the summer of 2018 and he started training at Esbjerg fB during the weeks prior to the announcement. He was presented to the fans at the Esbjerg Stadium before a league game against Randers FC on 4 August 2018, which ended in a 3–3 draw. On 4 November 2018, having been struggling with recurring injuries, Van der Vaart announced he would retire from professional football with immediate effect.
Van der Vaart gained the notice of the youth team coaches and was called up for the youth squads. He played in the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship with present senior teammates Maarten Stekelenburg and John Heitinga and former Real Madrid teammates Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben.
The 18-year-old Van der Vaart then made his senior international debut against Andorra on 6 October 2001.He was a member of the squads that participated in Euro 2004, Euro 2008, Euro 2012, the 2006 World Cup and the 2010 World Cup. Despite figuring prominently in a number of qualifying stage matches, Van der Vaart has had a lack of luck when it came to the final tournament. He was however, vice-captain during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 behind Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Mark van Bommel respectively. On 15 August 2012, Van der Vaart earned his 100th cap for the Netherlands in the 2–4 loss against Belgium in a friendly match.
Van der Vaart usually wears the number 23 or 10 jersey while playing for his country.
A sub-par performance by the Dutch during their opening game of Euro 2004 persuaded then manager Dick Advocaat to change the side's formation into one which he felt the talented Van der Vaart did not fit into. With Advocaat's new system seemingly working, Van der Vaart would be reduced to play a bit-part role at Euro 2004, as the Oranje reached the semi-finals.
Despite that setback, Van der Vaart produced some superlative performances in the Bundesliga the following season, and it seemed that Van der Vaart's turn to shine on the big stage was to finally come – at the 2006 World Cup. However, niggling injury problems resurfaced, and Van der Vaart was not risked by Dutch coach Marco van Basten for the opening World Cup encounter against Serbia and Montenegro. With victory in that opening game, the national team coach would once again decide to continue fielding a "Van der Vaart-less" lineup. And once again, Van der Vaart was reduced to a bit-part role in the squad although since then he has become a more regular fixture in the starting XI.
Van der Vaart was called up for Euro 2008 despite missing several qualification matches due to an ankle injury. As Van Basten had decided to change their formation to 4–2–3–1, Van der Vaart was deployed in the midfield along with Wesley Sneijder and either Dirk Kuyt or Robin van Persie, behind lone striker Ruud van Nistelrooy to great effect. In the opening game of the competition, the Dutch team won 3–0 against the world champions Italy with Van der Vaart playing a role in the build-ups. Van Basten decided to field him again in the starting line-up in the next match against France; the Oranje later went on to win 4–1.
Despite enduring a tough time at club level,Van der Vaart remained a first-choice player for Van Basten's successor Bert van Marwijk in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers. On 10 September 2008, he ended a ten-month goal drought with a vital strike against Macedonia in a 2–1 win. He ended the campaign with 2 goals and several important assists.
On 12 August 2009, Van der Vaart captained the Dutch in the absence of Giovanni van Bronckhorst in a friendly against England. He scored the second goal off a Gareth Barry mistake to put the Netherlands two goals up in the first half but Jermain Defoe netted a brace to seal a 2–2 draw.
Van der Vaart was in the starting line-up for the three group matches in the 2010 World Cup, against Denmark,Japan and Cameroon, but eventually lost his spot in the starting line-up to his recently recovered fellow midfielder Arjen Robben after being substituted in the match against Cameroon. He was brought off the pitch after giving away a penalty to Cameroon by blocking the ball with his arm from a free-kick. However, he made another appearance in the semi-final against Uruguay, after coming on for the injured Demy de Zeeuw. He helped Oranje win the match with 3–2, thus sending them to the final. He also played in the final against Spain, substituting Nigel de Jong just before injury time. Netherlands lost the game 1–0 to a goal from Andrés Iniesta. He was handed the captain's armband during the match, after Giovanni van Bronckhorst was substituted off.
Van der Vaart made his Euro 2012 debut as a sub in the first match against Denmark – a match they went on to lose. In the second match against Germany, again he was a substitute, but came on for Dutch captain Mark van Bommel and took the captain's armband. In the second half he created more attacking chances, which led to a goal, but they again lost the match. In the final group match against Portugal, Van der Vaart started as captain, and scored a goal that gave the Netherlands a glimmer of hope to get out of the group. However, two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a 2–1 win and knocked out the Netherlands.
Van der Vaart was named in Louis van Gaal's provisional 30-man squad for the 2014 World Cup, but withdrew on 28 May, three days before the final squad was named, due to a calf injury that he suffered in training.
On 10 June 2005, Van der Vaart married Sylvie Meis and on 28 May 2006, their son Damián Rafael was born. Some of the media have described the couple as the "new Beckhams" but both of them denied the claims saying that they prefer to just live a normal life.
In the summer of 2009, Real Madrid wanted to sell Van der Vaart, but the player decided to stay in Madrid because his wife was undergoing cancer treatment there.A year later, upon his move to England, Van der Vaart stated, "She had a very serious illness and it is true that she had to be treated at the Clinica Quiron. Last season, they wanted me to leave but I couldn't leave for that reason. Now she is well and the only thing that happened was that Madrid wanted to sell and I wanted to get back to enjoying playing football, and Tottenham are a great team that are going to give me the football opportunities that I need."
In 2010, Van der Vaart found out through emails that his wife was having an affair with a KLM airline pilot.On New Year's Eve 2012, Van der Vaart and his wife separated after he committed domestic abuse, though Van der Vaart had publicly denied those accusations. He has since admitted and apologised for his actions and the former couple publicly appeared to be on good terms, despite them splitting.
As of August 2016, Van der Vaart is in a relationship with Dutch handball player Estavana Polmanwho plays for Danish club Team Esbjerg. This was the main reason he moved to Denmark and chose to play for Midtjylland. On 27 December 2016, they announced that they are expecting a child. Their daughter Jesslynn was born in June 2017.
|Netherlands national team|
Scores and results list the Netherlands's goal tally first. Score column indicates score after each van der Vaart goal.
|Rafael van der Vaart – goals for the Netherlands|
|1.||6 September 2003||De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands||1–0||3–1||UEFA Euro 2004 qualification|
|2.||10 September 2003||Toyota Arena, Prague, Czech Republic||1–2||1–3||UEFA Euro 2004 qualification|
|3.||11 October 2003||Philips Stadion, Eindhoven, Netherlands||4–0||5–0||UEFA Euro 2004 qualification|
|4.||1 June 2004||Olympique de la Pontaise, Lausanne, Switzerland||1–0||3–0||Friendly|
|5.||7 September 2005||Philips Stadion, Eindhoven, Netherlands||1–0||4–0||2006 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|6.||8 October 2005||Toyota Arena, Prague, Czech Republic||1–0||2–0||2006 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|7.||15 November 2006||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||1–1||1–1||Friendly|
|8.||7 February 2007||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||4–1||4–1||Friendly|
|9.||2 June 2007||Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea||1–0||2–0||Friendly|
|10.||2 June 2007||Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul, South Korea||2–0||2–0||Friendly|
|11.||6 June 2007||Rajamangala Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand||1–0||3–1||Friendly|
|12.||21 November 2007||Dinamo Stadium, Minsk, Belarus||1–2||1–2||UEFA Euro 2008 qualification|
|13.||10 September 2008||Philip II Arena, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia||2–0||2–1||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|14.||1 April 2009||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||4–0||4–0||2010 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|15.||12 August 2009||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||2–0||2–2||Friendly|
|16.||1 June 2010||De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands||2–0||4–1||Friendly|
|17.||25 March 2011||Ferenc Puskás Stadium, Budapest, Hungary||1–0||4–0||UEFA Euro 2012 qualification|
|18.||30 May 2012||De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands||1–0||2–0||Friendly|
|19.||17 June 2012||Metalist Stadium, Kharkiv, Ukraine||1–0||1–2||UEFA Euro 2012|
|20.||12 October 2012||De Kuip, Rotterdam, Netherlands||1–0||3–0||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|21.||16 October 2012||Arena Națională, Bucharest, Romania||3–1||4–1||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|22.||22 March 2013||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||1–0||3–0||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|23.||26 March 2013||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||1–0||4–0||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|24.||11 October 2013||Amsterdam Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands||7–1||8–1||2014 FIFA World Cup qualification|
|25.||16 November 2013||Cristal Arena, Genk, Belgium||1–0||2–2||Friendly|
'Before the winter break in Holland,' he admits, 'my performances were terrible. Some of it was caused by my being overweight, and a lot of critics said my relationship with Sylvie Meis was the cause of my dip in form.' Sylvie Meis is the Dutch television celebrity who turns the heads of many a young man. The stories about her leading Rafael astray are, he claims, over the top. 'People said because of her I wasn't focused on football and went to too many parties,' he says.
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