One of Tottenham Hotspur’s most exciting players in recent memory is calling it quits today. Former Hamburg, Real Madrid, and Tottenham attacking midfielder and Dutch international playmaker Rafael van der Vaart retired from professional football today at the age of 35. He made the announcement via social media with a video of some of his highlights set to an instrumental version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
If there is one moment to use My Way, this is it. It wasn’t an easy decision to say goodbye to the game I love the most. But words can’t express how grateful I am for those 18 wonderful years of professional football. Thank you all! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/SDpmb5oSUV— Rafael van der Vaart (@rafvdvaart) November 5, 2018
Van der Vaart had an 18-year career in football that started at Ajax, and included stops at Hamburg in the Bundesliga, Real Madrid, Tottenham, and Real Betis. Signed at the absolute last minute in the summer of 2010 from Real Madrid by Daniel Levy, van der Vaart became an instant crowd favorite at White Hart Lane and brought both flair and a scoring touch to a Spurs side that under Harry Redknapp was heading to the Champions League for the first time. His £8m bargain basement signing was near miraculous for a club of Spurs’ caliber, and Spurs fans to this day still talk about Tottenham hopefully making a last-gasp “van der Vaart deal.”
At Spurs he made 63 league appearances, and scored 28 goals in all competitions, but he also became lovingly known as a “65 minute man” — he rarely lasted a full 90 minutes and was frequently subbed off late in matches.
Van der Vaart was also a Netherlands international, scoring 25 goals in 109 international appearances, playing in both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.
He ended his career in Denmark, playing for Esbjerg fB, but injuries restricted him to just 3 matches, and he decided to hang up his boots rather than continue to battle injury and a body that was breaking down.
Thanks to YouTube, you can now take a trip down memory lane and watch highlights of all 28 of Rafa’s goals for Spurs. Enjoy this video, and join me in saying goodbye and thank you to Rafa.