Van der Vaart-mania sweeps Hamburg
Dutch midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has admitted he is enjoying the attention surrounding his eagerly-anticipated return to help try and turn around Hamburg’s ailing Bundesliga fortunes.
The 29-year-old is back in Hamburg after four years away playing for Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur. However, he agreed to return when Hamburg last week paid 13 million euros (US$16.4m) for the 100-times capped Holland star.
More than 1,000 Hamburg fans turned up to watch his first training session on Sunday, while 2,500 supporters came to watch Hamburg’s 12-0 friendly win over sixth division side SC Schwarzenbek on Tuesday.
“I like the hype about me, now we can start really,” he said while signing numerous autographs after scoring in the low-key friendly in Hamburg’s suburbs.
“I am here to take responsibility.
“We have many players who can play football really well.
“I hope that my return will create a little confidence.” With international matches taking place this weekend, Van der Vaart’s return to the Bundesliga has been delayed until Sunday September 16 at Eintracht Frankfurt, who are second in the German league.
“Rafael brings us positive energy,” said Hamburg coach Torsten Fink, who is under pressure having lost his opening two Bundesliga games.
“Our game will be much more creative with him.
“And some of the players will grow accordingly.” With Hamburg 15th in the 18-strong Bundesliga table — the same position they finished last season — Germany coach Joachim Loew has warned against Hamburg basing their season around the Dutchman.
“I believe that Rafael can help decisively, his transfer to Hamburg will create a spirit of optimism,” Loew told German’s Sky Sports News.
“They shouldn’t make the mistake in Hamburg of putting all their focus on Van der Vaart. The whole team has to improve.”