Hamburg welcomes back a prodigal son, with a former captain returning to the Imtech Arena after sowing oats in Madrid and London. For Rafael van der Vaart, the return to an adoring fan base helps soften the blow of losing his place at post-Redknapp Tottenham.
Who is this guy: From 2005 until fall 2008, Rafael van der Vaart was the key to Hamburg teams that third, seventh, fourth (since they’ve finished fifth, seventh, eight and 15th). At Real Madrid, van der Vaart never made an impact, though he was a huge success in his first year at Spurs, adapting to a behind-the-striker role supporting Peter Crouch. Last year, van der Vaart’s influence waned, and with the change of approach being implemented by André Villas-Boas, van der Vaart was no longer a good fit in North London.
What does he do: Van der Vaart is an above-average attacking midfielder who can both contribute and create goals, scoring 11 times while accuring 5 assists in last year’s Premier League. Not particularly fast, hard working, or tactically aware in defense, van der Vaart is a good fit for a team with personnel and goals that will allow him to be an attack-only defender. At Real Madrid, that combination was a poor fit, while at Tottenham, van der Vaart was able to adapt.
How much did he cost: Ten million pounds ($15.8 million). That’s more than Spurs paid for him, but not as much as chief executive Daniel Levy wanted.
How does he fit: Well, both in terms of on field and intangible contributions. Hamburg just finished a miserable season in which they amazingly battled relegation. This season didn’t look much better until they acquired van der Vaart, who should give HSV a big boost.
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