Former Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart retires at 35

Former Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart retires at 35

Former Tottenham and Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart has retired, aged 35.

The former Netherlands international, who played in the 2010 World Cup final defeat by Spain, enjoyed an 18-year career that began with Ajax.

He joined Danish side Esbjerg in August, but injury restricted him to three appearances.

“It wasn’t an easy decision to say goodbye to the game I love the most,” he said on Twitter.

“But words can’t express how grateful I am for those 18 wonderful years of professional football. Thank you all.”

Van der Vaart accompanied the post with a montage of his playing career, to an instrumental version of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

He made his debut for Ajax at 17, making 117 appearances and winning the Eredivisie title twice, before moving to Hamburg in 2005.

The Dutchman then joined Real Madrid in 2008, before leaving for Spurs two years later, where he played 67 times, scoring 24 goals, and then rejoined Hamburg in 2012.

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