Rafael van der Vaart has expressed his relief in seeing his Hamburg side avoid relegation to the second Bundesliga.
The six times Bundesliga winners were moments away from suffering an embarrassing relegation to the second tier of German football having finished the season third bottom, after collecting a total of 27 points from a possible 102.
Hamburg, who have never played outside the Bundesliga since its creation in 1963, survived by the skin of their teeth having won 1-1 on aggregate against Greuther Furth over a two-legged relegation play-off.
Despite having the privilege of playing in the Bundesliga for a 51st consecutive season, the majority of people associated with German football feel that Hamburg should be competing with the likes of FC Inglostadt and SV Sandhausen in the second tier due to results of the campaign just gone.
Mirko Slomka’s side nevertheless will undoubtedly be preparing themselves for life in the Bundesliga next season, and promises of reform from the hierarchy have already been met with the news that the owners have floated the club on the stock exchange.
Although the owners seem to brushing last season’s troubles under the carpet, some players including Van der Vaart are just happy that the current campaign has come to a positive conclusion.
He said: “It feels like all the pressure that has been on my shoulders has finally lifted. It feels like a massive release of pressure that we were able to avoid relegation. The past season was gnawing away at me, more than I want to admit.”
The Hamburg captain who has been deeply criticised by German football expects and fans alike for his poor performances in the past few months is currently training with his Netherlands side in Portugal ahead of the World Cup which is due to kick off in just over two weeks.
Van der Vaart who is hoping to achieve success under Louis van Gaal in Brazil following 2010 World Cup final heartbreak, and the misery of being relegated in the group stages of the 2012 European Championships is glad that he has switched Hamburg for Portugal for the time being.
He said: “When you arrive at the national team, the problems associated with Hamburg are not spoken about in the hotel and on the training pitch. There are other issues to talk about.
“There is a much better feeling here as we have players here who have won titles. As a result there is a good mood here, and I am happy to be here.”
There have been several reports suggesting that the former Tottenham player was looking for a way out of the club if Hamburg were relegated, but the 31-year-old has dashed these rumours by insisting that he will honour the remainder of his three year contract, which is set to expire next year.
“I want to stay with my club, and I want to start the season playing for Hamburg. I love this club and I want to continue playing here,” he concluded. “The most important things for me is to prove myself in the colours of Hamburg.”
The Netherlands international who is set to participate in his third consecutive World Cup finals is also keen to prove himself as a better player for Hamburg next season, and is determined to start the new campaign on the right foot.
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