Rafael van der Vaart
- Club: Ajax Amsterdam
- Preferred position: Left-wing
- Nationality: Dutch
- Date of birth: 11/02/83
- Place of birth: Heemskerk
- Weight: 70kg
- Height 1.74 m
"I think Rafael van der Vaart is ready for Italy. He is not a talent anymore. He is a big player." - van der Vaart's teammate at Ajax, Christian Chivu (Source: www.footballtransfers.info)
A highly impressive youngster, Rafael van der Vaart is undoubtedly one of the top young prospects in the world of soccer today. He made his Ajax debut against FC Den Bosch at the age of 17 in a 1-1 draw, and the next season became a first-team regular. Later that year (1999) he was voted Ajax Supporters' Player Of The Year.
He also played in the 2000 Under-20 World Cup for Holland in Argentina, his side eventually getting knocked out in the quarter-finals to Egypt during a game in which he not only scored, but was sent off for receiving two yellow cards.
The highlight of his career so far may well be winning his first full international cap by coming on as a substitute in the 65th minute in Holland's 4-0 victory over Andorra in the European Championship Qualifiers on October 6th 2001.
His 2001/02 season for Ajax was nothing short of fantastic - he was their leading scorer over the course of the season with 15 goals, outscoring all the strikers in the squad, and leading them to another league title. He however injured himself in a match against RKC, and later had an operation on his right meniscus - everything seemed to be fine, but after a few weeks, it became apparent that the surgeon had made a mistake - a second operation was undergone and the whole meniscus had to be removed.
As with any young talents, rumours have been flying around the world of soccer linking him to all sorts of clubs around Europe. A few clubs that have had strong rumours linking him to them are Liverpool, AC Milan and Barcelona - van der Vaart even claims on his personal website that his favourite stadium is the Nou Camp in Barcelona, and because his mother is Spanish and from the same area, the media have found more excuses to create speculaton. He however is adament that he is going to stay put in Amsterdam for at least another season.
"I haven't got a clue where these stories come from. Strange isn't it? When a big match is ahead of us, people start to spread the word about me moving to that club. Of course, AC Milan is a beautiful club and yes, Marco van Basten had a great time playing there but that doesn't mean I have to go there too, does it? I signed a new contract a few weeks ago, and I'm rather happy with it so I'm not planning on leaving!" - van der Vaart on specualtion linking him to AC Milan (Source: www.rafaelvdvaart.nl)