He shone at Real Madrid and in two World Cups, his physical change is shocking

This midfielder was a star of European soccer, but is unrecognizable.

By William Estrella

He played with CR7.
He played with CR7.
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The professional career of soccer players is very short. They usually make their debut between the ages of 18 and 20, and then play until they are about 35, when their strength, speed and motivation begin to wane and they can no longer compete against players younger than them. The more fortunate ones make the most of those 15 years of plenitude and then can live the rest of their lives with the peace of mind of having given the best they had.

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Once retired, some choose a life far removed from soccer, but most try to stay in the game in one way or another. Many become coaches or assistants, others become media commentators or agents, and some hold managerial positions at clubs where they played during their careers.

Rafael van der Vaart followed several of these paths simultaneously. He had a successful experience in top-level clubs such as Real Madrid, Hamburg, Tottenham and Real Betis, but undoubtedly where he left the best memory was at Ajax. There he shone between 2000 and 2005, playing 155 games and scoring 63 goals. Once retired from soccer, the former midfielder was assistant coach to Peter Hyballa at Team Esbjerg between 2021 and 2023, while starting a career as a professional darts player. In fact, he registered with the British Darts Organisation and participated in a Denmark Open.

But this is not the most surprising thing about his life outside of soccer. Recently, pictures of Van der Vaart became known and many fans were surprised by his physical change. Long gone are his glorious times at Real Madrid and his participation in two World Cups with the Netherlands national team, as he now looks so obviously overweight that it is hard to recognize him.

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He is not satisfied with Ajax

Van der Vaart recently gave an interview on Dutch TV and harshly criticized the decisions of Ajax's chiefs. "Ajax have brought in players with zero quality. The club will now have to see out the rest of the season". And then he specifically targeted one of this year's signings: "They have brought in Jordan Henderson. All he does is to play a little pass out wide, or a little pass back. But nobody will be happy with that".

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