Rafael van der Vaart - 2003 Golden Boy award winner

Award date
12 Dec 2003
Award age
20 and 304 days
Club (when winning)
Birth date
11 Feb 1983
Retired year
Currently doing
Playing dart, pundit

The very first winner of the Golden Bay award was the Dutch attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart. Van der Vaart was playing in a very talented Ajax at the time he received the award. The runner up was Wayne Rooney (who won the award the following year), and third Cristiano Ronaldo (who actually never got to receive this award).

Ajax Amsterdam is where it started

Rafael van der Vaart was born in Heemskerk, Netherlands, half an hour drive north-west of Amsterdam, on the 11th of February 1983. He started off playing in local clubs but joined Ajax youth academy early, at the age of 10. He made his debut in the senior team in the season 1999/2000 on the 19th of April, when he was still only 17 years old, in an Eredivisie match against Den Bosch.

He played in Ajax for five and a half season in which he helped Ajax winning the Eredivisie title twice, and the Dutch cup KNVB Cup once. During his time in Ajax he was a very consistent goal scorer, scoring 52 goals in his 117 first division matches for the club.

Moving to Hamburg and the Bundesliga

Despite being a huge talent and having performed strongly in Ajax, and there where rumours about big clubs like Milan wanting to sign him, he a bit surprisingly was sold to Hamburg in Bundesliga. The German club paid only €5.5 million for his signature, which was considered kind of a bargain at that point. The transfer went though in June 2005.

He stayed in Hamburg for three seasons in Hamburg, scoring 48 goals in 113 competition matches. During his years there he was their most important player and was also captain of the team for some time. Van der Vaart didn't get to win any "real" titles while being there, but Hamburg did win the UEFA Intertoto Cup twice during his time there.

Signing for Real Madrid

In 2007 there were plenty of big European clubs lining up to buy him but eventually Real Madrid laid there hands on him in August 2008 for a reported transfer fee of €13 million. In Real he reunited with his old Ajax team mate Wesley Sneijder.

He only got to stay two seasons in the Spanish giant, and actually he was rumoured to move away already after the first season. He rejected a move at that point because his wife at the time, Sylvie Meis, was undergoing a cancer treatment in the Spanish capital.

He did not perform as well in Real Madrid as he had done in Ajax and Hamburg and his scoring record in Real was poorer than in his previous clubs. This was a period when Real Madrid had a bit of a slump and they didn't win any meaningful titles during his years in the club.

Tottenham and Premier League

In August 2010 it was time for van der Vaart to move again, and this time the Premier League club Tottenham bought him over for £8 million. He had two very good seasons in Tottenham and was an important player for the team, but Tottenham being Tottenham, he didn't get to win any titles with the English club.

Back in Hamburg

At the beginning of the season 2012/2013, after playing the two initial games in the new Premier League season, he signed once again for Hamburg. This session he stayed another three seasons, although scoring fewer goals than his previous years in the club, he was an important player for Hamburg. However, despite this, Hamburg decided not to extend his contract when it ended after season 2014/2015.

Rounding up the career

Out of contract van der Vaart could sign for the La Liga club Real Betis as a free transfer in June 2015. His time in Real Betis was nothing but a success though, and in the summer of 2016 he left the club after only playing nine matches and not scoring once.

Far from the big scene he this time decided to sign for the Danish club FC Midtjylland. But even in Denmark he failed to make an impression. After being left out of the team most of the time he signed for another Danish club, Esbjerg in August 2018, but after failing there as well he finally decided to end his football career.

Rafael van der Vaart in the Netherlands national team

Van der Vaart was a very important player in the Netherlands youth national teams. As an 18 year old he made his debut in the senior team in a 4-0 World Cup qualifier win against Andorra, coming on as a substitute for Victor Sikora.

He played for the Netherlands in two FIFA World Cup's, first in 2006 and second time in 2010, the World Cup where they made it all the way to final but lost against Spain. He also played in three UEFA Euro, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Records and achievements by Rafael van der Vaart

Q&A about Rafael van der Vaart

Is Rafael van der Vaart a football coach?
No, he is not a football coach. He actually was the interim coach in his last club Esbjerg for six matches, but after winning zero of these matches he probably decided that occupation was not for him.
What is Rafael van der Vaart doing nowadays?
After he ended his football career he pursued a career as a professional dart player. He is also a pundit for Dutch TV, actually being a pretty really harsh one as well.
Are Rafael van der Vaart and Zlatan Ibrahimovic best friends?
Not really. They were team mates in Ajax and it was quite known that they hated each other. Actually Zlatan even injured van der Vaart in an international game between Sweden and the Netherlands, while they were still team mates. Zlatan wrote about their disputes in his autobiography as well.

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