"Where the hell is Gelsenkirchen?"
The depressing introduction to the summer transfer window we've been enduring of late trundled on today as the Schalke manager Huub Stevens confirmed that he is in talks with Rafael van der Vaart's agent over a possible move.
In an interview with Voetbal International passed on over at Goal.com, Stevens claimed: "Schalke won't say no to van der Vaart, I still know him from our mutual stay at Hamburger SV and I would like to join forces with him again. We are in contact with his agent. I'm on holiday right now, but I'm in touch with Schalke GM Horst Heldt on daily basis about our plans."
It's important to keep in mind that van der Vaart has made no noises about leaving the club thus far and has declared himself happy to stay for the foreseeable future as recently as last week, a point Stevens himself attested to: "I don't know about how Raf himself feels about a return to Germany. I haven't spoken to him yet, with his mind still on the Euros". Emphatically, however, he claimed that "if we have this opportunity to contract him, which looks quite reasonable, we won't miss our chance".
I'm far from an unquestioning fan of Rafa, and I've often argued that his persistent problems with fitness and flexibility make him less than an invaluable member of the squad. I am, however, a big fan of his committment and stated love for the club, and his goal record is far from shabby. This is far from cheery news, and if there's even a possibility that Raf really is on his way out I hope we have some stellar possible replacements lined up.