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Sports

Hamburg

Rafael van der Vaart without shirt waving at fans

It seems Rafael van der Vaart has taken off his Hamburg shirt for good

Of all the departures in the Bundesliga this season, none weighs heavier than Rafael van der Vaart's. The Dutch playmaker left Hamburg for his "dream team" Real Madrid, and that's left last season's 4th-place finisher without their most valuable player.

There is also a change on the sidelines. Coach Huub Stevens stepped down for personal reasons and has been replaced by fellow Dutchman Martin Jol. It's a step up for Hamburg in terms of name recognition, but given Jol's dismal record for his last employer, English side Tottenham Hotspur, the jury's still out.

Hamburg are still a strong side, and there's little reason to fear them falling apart completely. Whether they can contend for a spot in international competition will probably depend on how they invest the roughly 13 million euros they received for van der Vaart. Three days before the season start, they'd yet to land anyone remotely comparable.

Major arrivals: Dennis Aogo, Jonathan Pitroipa

Major departures: Rafael van der Vaart, Juan Pablo Sorin