Sporting KC should not pursue ex-Real Madrid and Tottenham attacker Rafael van der Vaart


Despite having a mixed record with designated player signings from abroad, Sporting KC is reportedly ready to splash significant cash on Dutch international Rafael van der Vaart.

While the signing would bring in a player that has played at the highest levels – Ajax, Hamburg, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur – it may prove the club has more money than brains or scouting.

In a country that loves to look at stats in sports, Sporting KC is ignoring several key items of Van der Vaart’s game.

Most importantly, he has played a full 90 minutes just three times this season. Fitness has been a concern for years, and at 32, it doesn’t seem to be improving. Former manager Harry Redknapp criticised the Dutchman for being out of shape during his Tottenham-spell. Along with a reputation of being lazy and shirking defensive duties, it doesn’t seem Van der Vaart fits the typical Peter Vermes style of play.

If fitness and defensive frailties can be overlooked, then consider Van der Vaart currently possesses the lowest pass success rate of his career at 72.6%; down 7.4% from last year. He has registered zero assists in the Bundesliga for the first time in his career, something the playmaking midfield should be doing despite Hamburg sitting just above the relegation zone.

He has scored goals, but this is down too. Four goals have been tallied thus far. With the likes of Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber, Van der Vaart seems unnecessary unless one of those attacking players is traded. Of course, Zusi is a designated player in his own right and is the face of the club, which means he will be going nowhere.

In addition to fitness and declining numbers, Sporting KC is pursuing a player that has been known to be outspoken. In 2007, Van der Vaart angered Hamburg supporters when he was photographed holding a Valencia jersey; later stating he wanted to move to the La Liga team. The deal never happened though a transfer to Real Madrid did occur a year later.

There have also been other off-field problems. In January 2013, Van der Vaart and his wife Sylvie split up after the player hit her at a party in front of friends. Reportedly, he found out about an affair she had been having.

In the end, Van der Vaart is a big name, though questions should be raised about how many fans know of about the playmaker other than his famous former teams. In the book Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski argue that stats, wages and transfer fees show that Brazilian and Dutch players are overhyped.

Van der Vaart will be out of contract with Hamburg in the summer. According to ESPN, Sporting KC wants the 32-year-old to become a face of the team and possibly the league. It must be noted that several teams are interested in Van der Vaart’s signature in Europe still, but Sporting may be his best chance at one last “big salary”.

The original figures floated around in terms of wages for Van der Vaart were astounding. Sporting KC was reportedly ready to splash $4.8 million per year on the former Real Madrid player. This has now been shot down by Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman.

Sporting KC has had the likes of Omar Bravo and Claudio Bieler on its books in the past. Bieler was released in January after producing a mere four goals 2014 in 241 minutes. Dom Dwyer’s emergence helped to keep the Argentine on the bench.

Both Bravo and Bieler left Kansas City after failing to secure a solid place in Vermes’ starting XI late in their Sporting careers. Read what you like into that, but if a clash of personalities caused their departures, is Van der Vaart a wise choice?

Sporting KC is a team trying to rebound from a 10th overall finish in MLS last term. Though Sporting made the playoffs, the team was beaten in the first round (knockout stage) of the postseason. While Van der Vaart does show a willingness to pursue high-priced talent from Europe, the club may be better off looking for several mid-level players than going for a homerun in the Dutchman.

Follow Drew Farmer on Twitter @CalcioFarmer. Drew Farmer is a journalist for www.ForzaItalianFootball and hosts the Serie A Football Fancast podcast.


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