The Dutchman may not always follow tactical instructions or cover every blade of grass and you could argue he's a bit selfish, but wherever he's played he's entertained.
With a first touch that begs the question, 'Is he wearing velcro on his boot?', super human vision and an eye for goal van der Vaart is one of the world's premier playmakers. Here he reveals his secrets to FourFourTwo Performance....
Want the ball
More after the break
As a playmaker, you should always want to get on the ball and make things happen. You should always have your mind constantly thinking and aware of what’s going on around you, but also be relaxed and enjoy the game. I’m always trying to enjoy the game. It’s quite easy to say, but it’s very true. Every game is different for a playmaker. Sometimes you feel better than in other games.
The playmaker is the most difficult position on the pitch because you have defenders around you and it’s difficult to control the ball in midfield. You have to know what’s happening around you before you get the ball. Awareness is the most important attribute of a playmaker because you must be conscious of the places and space to play in. As a playmaker, it is really encouraging when you have the ball and everybody is moving looking to find space. When the playmaker has the ball, it is especially important that the strikers are moving into space and creating room for the ball to be played into.
First touch can make the difference
The first touch is one of the most important assets to a playmaker. It affects your possession game and dictates how much time you have on the ball. When your first touch is good it always gives you extra time to see the next situation and improves your decision making.
Practice makes perfect
As a playmaker you must train everyday. It’s not something you do once a week. You have to train every day because perfecting your technique comes through practice. Playmakers need very a good possession game and this all comes from having a good touch, especially a good first touch. That’s the most important thing because it gives you time to play. When I was young I always trained on my own. I would kick a ball against the wall and control the rebound and try to turn around while maintaining possession. Much of a playmaker's training can be done on your own.
Make the right choices
Sometimes I refrain from playing the ball to the strikers and wait an extra moment. This means when I do play it to the player in space, he already knows if he is free or has to play one touch. Delaying the pass gives him an extra moment to think about what to do next. I always try to play the ball in front of the striker because it’s there you score the goal and when running onto the ball they get a few seconds to think. Also for strikers it’s very nice to think that someone is playing behind you who knows where to play the ball. This gives them confidence to make runs into space and know they’ll get the ball.
If you want to shoot, it is very important that you aim low because you can get more of your body across the ball. Shooting from long distance is difficult because you need to kick it harder and make good contact with the ball. It’s difficult, but all down to training.
Volley like Van der Vaart
Rafael van der Vaart wears the new CTR 360 Maestri II, a boot that helps the playmaker to receive, control and distribute the ball to Take Control of the game. On-sale now. Visit www.nikefootball.com