Rafael van der Vaart. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEFTY SHIVAMBU
Rafael van der Vaart. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/LEFTY SHIVAMBU

Spain have pledged to store former Netherlands player Rafael van der Vaart’s scathing assessment about their shaky start in Euro 2020 in their memory banks should they come up against the Dutch later in the tournament.

Van der Vaart, a pundit for broadcaster NOS at the tournament, said Spain’s performances so far have been “horrible” and they “only know how to pass the ball from one side to the other” after the 2008 and 2012 champions managed only to draw their first two games, against Poland and Sweden.

The former Real Madrid and Real Betis midfielder, who failed to stop Andres Iniesta scoring the only goal in the 2010 World Cup final, has caused a stir in the Spanish media and his comments also irked the players, who returned fire.

“Van der Vaart wanted his moment of glory and he is having it,” Spain midfielder Koke said on Spanish radio station Cadena Cope.

“I saw him in the World Cup final, and here at our training base we have a picture of Iniesta’s goal against the Netherlands with him next to him. You have to respect people’s opinions but we’ll remember these words.

“We’re not going to hang them up in the dressing room but we’ll keep them in our memories in case we end up playing [the Dutch].”

While Spain have made their worst start to a Euros since 1996 and need to beat Slovakia on Wednesday to guarantee their place in the last 16, the Netherlands have won all three games and are the top-scoring side in the tournament with eight goals.

Van der Vaart’s words also irked Spain midfielder Pablo Sarabia.

“He made a big mistake with those comments,” he told Radio Marca. “And especially as a former footballer. He has messed up, but the only memory I have of him is the 2010 World Cup and it didn’t go too well for him as we won the final.”

Reuters

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