Rafael Van Der Vaart: 5 Possible New Destinations Next Season
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During Tottenham Hotspur's 4-0 defeat last night in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, Dutch forward Rafael Van der Vaart cut a desolate figure.
After his teammate Peter Crouch was dismissed for two reckless challenges within the first 15 minutes, Spurs coach Harry Redknapp asked former Madrid player Van der Vaart to move upfield into a lone striker role.
But for the remaining 30 minutes of the half, despite much endeavour, his contribution was limited to chasing shadows and one half-chance from a Gareth Bale throw-in which he could not control quickly enough.
He was substituted at half-time.
This was not his first immensely frustrating day either—he had recently irked his manager by walking straight down the tunnel when he was substituted during a home stalemate against West Ham United.
Many observers would suggest that not only is his impact in North London waning, but also that he is possibly having a negative impact in the squad.
When asked about his actions, the 28 year old commented:
"I played well and did not find the substitution necessary. Often I like to play 90 minutes but at Spurs that hardly ever happens. I won't be back for 10 days, by then a lot of it will have blown over."
It has not blown over, and perhaps he is starting to realise that his teammates are not quite at the level he was hoping, and that their Champions league adventure this season will not be continued or repeated next season.
In this slideshow, which is based neither on fact nor fiction and only represents my views, I suggest five clubs the left-footer may be playing for next season.
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Although this move would be highly controversial, William Gallas has proven this season that if you show dedication and perform to a high level, you can win over rival fans even in a short space of time.
Arsenal look like they may again miss out on silverware, and the fans are becoming increasingly vocal in their frustrations.
There is is huge potential in the squad and real quality throughout the pitch, but most of the team does not have extensive experience of winning titles and cups.
Van der Vaart, with his history of glory and success at both Ajax and Real Madrid, can add real know-how to Arsene Wenger's squad.
He can help nurture the likes of Jack Wilshere (pictured), who have massive futures ahead of them if they can learn from the good examples of more experienced teammates.
His fluid, easy-on-the-eye style would also be a good fit for the passing game which the Gunners pride themselves on.
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Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (pictured) must be content with his team's efforts this season: their 5-0 demolition of Sunderland at the weekend keeps alive their slim hopes of winning the title, and they are almost certain to qualify for the Champions League.
Although the club's Saudi owner Sheikh Mansour has backed his manager with big-money moves for Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and David Silva, he will appreciate the assertive influence of a player such as Van der Vaart.
His intelligence on and off the ball could add another dimension to City's offense and push them a step closer to usurping city rivals United.
Van der Vaart would surely find the allure of a shot at the league title and another season in the Champions League very strong.
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This season has been a real struggle for German powerhouses Bayern Munich, who were knocked out of the Champions League in the last round by a spectacular last-minute goal from Inter Milan's Goran Pandev.
In the Bundesliga, they lie in third and are 13 points adrift of leaders Borussia Dortmund, having lost a quarter of their 28 matches.
There is a lot of talent on the roster—Muller, Ribery and Schweinsteigger in particular are at the peak of their powers—and the possibility to link up with speedy compatriot Arjen Robben may outweigh the emotional burden of joining a rival of Van der Vaart's former club Hamburg.
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Inter Milan have enjoyed something of a renaissance under new coach Leonardo (pictured) and are now only five points behind fierce rivals AC Milan following strong Serie A form since the New Year.
But there are rumours in the press that Manchester United have made influential $50 million-rated Dutch midifelder Wesley Sneijder their No. 1 summer target in a bid to keep Manchester City at bay and find a long-term replacement for Paul Scholes.
Were such a move to materialise, another skilful Dutch midfielder, Van der Vaart, could prove a perfect replacement.
At half the cost, Leonardo would have money left over to boost the experience of his young squad in preparation for next season's Serie A.
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There are 52 good reasons why Ajax fans would love to welcome their hero back to the Amsterdam Arena.
Between 2000 and 2005, a young Van der Vaart (pictured in the famous red-and-white strip) led de Godenzonen to two Eredivisie titles and one KNVB Cup with some outstanding performances.
This eventually led to a surprise cut-price $7 million move to Hamburg.
While this was disappointing to many Dutch fans, he was not the first high-profile player to leave a club which could be invincible were it able to retain a number of its star youth players.
With Van der Vaart nearing the age of 30, he will be well aware of the need to start regularly for a club in order to be involved for country.
In many ways, a return to Ajax would be a smart and beautiful move.
It would bring him back home and keep the Dutch skipper under the watchful eye of national coach Bert Van Maarwijk as the European championships approach.