Van der Vaart’s unsuccessful time in Denmark

In August 2016, Dutch star Rafael van der Vaart was signed by Danish side FC Midtjylland. After spending most of the 2015/16 season on the bench at Real Betis, the move presented an opportunity for the former Ajax playmaker to get some much-needed playing time in the Danish league, whilst also moving in with his girlfriend Estevana Polman, who plays handball for Team Esbjerg.

The signing of the Dutchman was the next step in Midtjylland’s rapid rise to stardom. The Danish club won their first national championship in the 2014/15 season, in 2015/16 they progressed from the Europa League group stage and beat Manchester United at home in the 1/16 finals – only to get eliminated by Van Gaal’s men in the return leg. The former Real Madrid player was expected to lead the club to even higher standards, being the biggest profile ever to play in the Danish Superliga.

Upon his arrival in Denmark, Van der Vaart’s primary goal was to become fit. That meant he was mainly used as a substitute for Midtjylland, and when he started games he would often be taken off after 60 minutes. This was often the case for most of the first part of the season.

Unhappy with his role, Van der Vaart would often criticize the coach’s decision not to play him in the media. Even worse, after losing to Silkeborg, he labelled them “possibly the worst team he has ever played.” This prompted a response from Silkeborg player Simon Jakobsen, who tweeted: “Van der Fart (speed in Danish) is the worst superstar I have ever played against”.

After the winter break, Van der Vaart struggled to become a regular in the starting eleven and was often placed on the bench. Midtjylland finished the season in 4th place, which meant that they had to play one final game to secure the last available Europa League spot. The Wolves won, and all the players celebrated the ending of the season with the fans – except for Van der Vaart. He would state afterwards that he had never celebrated a 4th spot and to further enhance his reputation said that he doesn’t think people like football in Denmark, because of the small stadiums and the lack of spectators. Before that comment the sporting director of the club had said that he thought Van der Vaart should go to a nursing home when his contract in Midtjylland expires. Sad ending to a disappointing season for both parties.

The new season hasn’t been any better for the attacking midfielder so far. He was included in the squad for the first time this season in Sunday’s game against Hobro (although unused), but otherwise he has been frozen out of the first team and is often instructed to train with the reserves and the youth team.

Midtjylland hopes to terminate Van der Vaart’s contract, but he refuses to do so because his girlfriend Polman has one year left on her contract – which she wants to complete. The couple recently gave birth to a baby, so it seems Raffie‘s personal life must bring him the joy his career can’t right now. He must also face the fact that he probably won’t see much playing time this season either, slowly working towards a sad ending to an otherwise glorious career in cold Denmark.