Reports that Rafael van der Vaart is free to leave Tottenham this summer have been denied by new head coach Andre Villas-Boas, who has insisted that he expects the Dutch international to make a significant contribution.
The Portuguese tactician’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation, and the perception that van der Vaart lacks the tactical discipline to play as either a conventional midfielder or out wide, prompted speculation that he would be sold.
Quotes from officials of Bundesliga sides Schalke and Hamburg hinting at interest in the 29-year-old added to the rumours that he would be moving, however the player stated his desire to stay and has now been supported by his boss.
Villas-Boas said: “With van der Vaart, at the moment I am absolutely counting on him. It is a totally different situation from Luka, who has been chased by different clubs in the past two seasons and is continuing to drag interest.”
The discussion will therefore turn to what role the former Chelsea manager has in mind for him, as van der Vaart was critical of any attempts that Harry Redknapp made to play him out wide.
The most advanced of the three central midfield slots is probably the best fit, although that position appears to have been earmarked for new signing Gylfi Sigurdsson.
The other two spots will presumably be filled by a more defensive player like Scott Parker or Sandro and a playmaker who operates fairly deep like Luka Modric or whoever arrives to replace him.
Van der Vaart’s prolificacy – hitting double figures in his two prior campaigns at White Hart Lane – perhaps makes him an unorthodox option up front, though the most likely outcome will be him competing with Sigurdsson for a place.
Spurs are 20/1 fifth favourites to win the Premier League in Villas-Boas’ first season in charge, while they are 19/10 to retain their place as one of the division’s top four.