Friday, 25 July 2008

Mijatovic makes a move

During this interminable summer transfer saga that is Cristiano Ronaldo, it has at times seemed like Real Madrid were putting everything on hold, waiting for him to either arrive or decide to stay at Manchester United. Whether because there's just over a month left of the transfer window, or because Real know that there's a good chance they won't be getting the Portuguese winger this summer, it now looks like Mijatovic has decided to make his first move in the market (if you don't count Garay, back in May). The target is Netherlands midfielder and Hamburg captain Rafael van der Vaart.

The 25-year-old Dutchman, who has a Spanish mother, joined Hamburg from Ajax in 2005 for €5.5 million as midfield playmaker and has since been given the captaincy of their squad. He was instrumental in Hamburg's performance in last season's Bundesliga and has been linked with a number of clubs even before the summer transfer window, among them Chelsea, Inter, Valencia, as well as Real Madrid. Though he signed a 5-year deal with Hamburg, his contract terms state that from the end of the upcoming season, he can leave the club for a "mere" €1 million, hence the upsurge in interest in his services.

The German club's website noted in a brief announcement yesterday evening that they had received and rejected an offer from Real Madrid, as "unworthy of discussion". The value of the offer was then disclosed in German newspaper Die Welt as €6 million, coming in the form of a fax sent to Hamburg Thursday evening by Real Madrid sports director Predrag Mijatovic.

Van der Vaart could potentially be seen as a medium-term replacement for Guti, as he has played alongside Sneijder in that position both at Ajax and in the Dutch national side. The Real Madrid vice-captain, though indisputably talented, suffers from erratic form (and questionable temper) and has finished many of his 14 seasons at the club as a substitute. Nonetheless, he had a pretty regular season under Schuster last year and back in April signed a 'life contract', which saw his previous deal extended until 2011 with an annual renewal clause if he plays 30 games every season.

Hamburg's outright rejection of the offer is seen as a first step in the negotiations between both clubs, who are expected to revisit the matter when they meet in London for the Emirates Cup at the beginning of August.

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