As Jose Mourinho relaxes this evening, quietly celebrating Real Madrid’s capture of Mesut Özil from Werder Bremen for a seemingly great piece of business at 15m Euros, Rafael Van Der Vaart may not be having such thoughts of joy.
The Dutch playmaker is presented with yet another challenge at the Bernabeu, which could finally be one bridge too many for Van Der Vaart to cross. With both Kaka and now Özil ahead of him in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the new season, the player has to be wondering when he is going to get games if he remains in the famous white shirt of Madrid.
Having started his career at Ajax, progressing through the ranks alongside international team mates Wesley Sneijder and John Heitinga, he made the surprising step to many after 117 appearances, of accepting a move across the border to Hamburg. Despite ignoring the callings of some of the biggest names in Europe and leaving Dutch legend Johan Cruyff perplexed as to why he had made the move, his time at Hamburg proved largely successful, returning 29 goals over 74 appearances in 3 years.
Finally in 2008 he opted for the big name move and went off to find his fortunes at Real Madrid, but like many before him it just never took off with any consistency. Two years later he finds himself having only made 58 appearances for the club and many of those either from the substitutes bench or not completing the 90 mins from a starting position. The circumstances led him to be deemed surplus to requirements by manager Manuel Pellegrini and despite losing his squad number at one point, he eventually reached an agreement with the club to allow him to stay and fight for his position. He eventually got the chance to show his talent when an injury to Kaka, finally presented him with a chance of games in the side. In the majority Van Der Vaart didnt disappoint as several all action performances and some crucial goals provided him with renewed hope of a recognised career at Real Madrid.
No sooner was the season coming to an end when Liverpool and Christian Purslow were credited with approaching Real Madrid as to the players availability, albeit without the input of Rafael Benitez, which proved to be a further sign that the manager was going to have no input on the new season and be heading out of the club. Van Der Vaart has reiterated on a number of occassions his preference was to fulfil the contract that he signed but now the second thoughts might be starting to creep in.
The Dutchman has 3 years remaining on his present deal and that is a long time to wait in the shadows or hope for an injury to occur, when you know you are not one of the preferred ones in a squad. With just a fortnight remaining in the present transfer window, there are far worse choices to make, than for Christian Purslow to pick up the phone and have that conversation again.
Liverpool are believed to retain interest in securing the services of a further striker, attacking player or winger and a left back. The names of Liverpool’s player preferences continue to change on seemingly a daily basis, often the same names making a reappearance on the list from time to time. Van Der Vaart prefers to operate centrally as a typical playmaker but can also be deployed close to a leading striker or on the flanks, as Liverpool look for more depth across the squad, hes a player that ticks a lot of the boxes of requirement.
Liverpool’s transfer budget remains questionable with allegedly around £10m-£12m for a striker, around the £6m mark for a left back and potentially close to the £8m mark for someone of Van Der Vaart’s ability should they become available. The vast majority of the targets credited to Liverpool certainly fall into this model but how much relies on the exits of Javier Mascherano and Emiliano Insua remains to be seen. Hodgson is believed in some circles to have been given a transfer kitty of between the £6m and £12m mark to start off with, plus the sale values of any players (on deals started after his arrival) that left the squad to reinvest. In many ways the maths just don’t add up with Liverpool’s said ambitions but with two weeks of negotiating time left to play with, time may prove otherwise.
AC Milan are still credited with a loan only interest in Van Der Vaart but its a question that perhaps Liverpool should be ready to ask of the player, before taking the option to table a bid, which would no doubt be Real Madrid’s preferred method of business. Liverpool boast a side of renewed optimism under Roy Hodgson, a side full of passion and heart as Arsenal found on the opening day of the season, when their list of so called creative talent struggled to find an equaliser against a 9 man unit, some may argue that the sun in fact became their 12th man. A squad of men determined to prove a point an right some wrongs in the last 12 months, Rafael has a similar point to prove .
Liverpool have shown very early signs of positive change in their strategy, more fluid movement without the sacrifice of organisation. Should ball players continue to be able to express themselves without forgetting discipline at the required times then the Liverpool way could certainly benefit Van Der Vaart in the way that his fellow countryman continues to excel in a Red shirt. Dirk Kuyt is very much perceived as a man with energy levels many would give their right arm for, complimented with a will to fight and not give in, some of that mettle exists in Rafael too.
The future of Van Der Vaart will continue to be discussed, to a degree probably as much in his own home as it is on the forums of world football. Whether his final destination will be remains to be see, be it the Real Madrid bench or a new teams colours. Should the same thirst he has shown to not be written off at Real Madrid over the last two years be able to channelled into his play in a Liverpool shirt, a good acquisition he could most certainly be.
Van Der Vaart may not be on his way to Liverpool at the moment but the next two weeks may just see a little speculation over the player and such a link. The Reds have recognised him as a target before and just perhaps, they should again.