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He may be a controversial selection based on both performance and the fact that he spent three seasons in Hamburg earlier in his career, but Rafael van der Vaart was the most important foreign acquisition in Germany in 2012.
Many stars moved to the Bundesliga in the summer, but none have had the impression of the Dutch midfielder. Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Ibrahim Afellay have not yet been able to regularly make an impression in the league.
The decision between Van der Vaart and Szabolcs Huszti was a very difficult one, with each bringing his own unique assets to the fore. And while the Hungarian has been more effective, if inconsistent, on the pitch, the Dutchman has a trump card: his ability to change everything for HSV.
With or without Huszti, Hannover were going to be a modest success in the Bundesliga and Europa League; they have a brilliant trainer in Mirko Slomka and a dedicated staff. Hamburg, on the other hand, have been in a downward spiral since early 2010, and were nearly relegated last season. The club failed to build on success in the Europa League, sold some key players and created a toxic culture of being a stepping stone for talents on their way to stardom.
The merit of Van der Vaart being a 103-times capped Netherlands international and making the move back to his struggling former club cannot be overlooked. Even if money was a factor in coercing him, the ex-Real Madrid man has given reason for others to be proud to wear the HSV shirt. It's no coincidence that earlier in the season, it was Hamburg who ended Dortmund's 31-game unbeaten streak. Van der Vaart assisted two of his side's goals in that encounter.
Even in his current injured state, the Dutchman is a symbol to HSV that they can be much more. At the half-way mark, they stand just two points behind a return to international competition.
Honorable mentions: Ibrahim Afellay, Daniel Carvajal, Szabolcs Huszti, Xherdan Shaqiri