Van der Vaart returns to Hamburg

Associated Press Modified: August 31, 2012 at 2:20 pm •  Published: August 31, 2012

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Netherlands midfielder Rafael van der Vaart left Tottenham Friday to return to Hamburger SV, one of his former clubs.

Hamburg announced Friday that it had signed the 29-year-old midfielder on a three-year contract on the final day of the transfer window.

Two other Dutchmen were involved in final-day moves in the Bundesliga.

Schalke took on midfielder Ibrahim Afellay on loan from Barcelona until the end of the season, while Hoffenheim released forward Ryan Babel.

Van der Vaart previously played for Hamburg from 2005-08 and became a fan favorite, before moving to Real Madrid. He struggled to establish himself in Spain and moved to Tottenham two years later.

Hamburg is the only club never to be relegated in the 50-year history of the Bundesliga, but it made a poor start to the season, losing its opener at home to Nuremberg and getting knocked out of the German Cup.

Earlier Friday, Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal left out Van der Vaart from the squad to play Turkey and Hungary in the country's opening World Cup qualifiers.

The 26-year-old Afellay is coming off an injury-plagued season when left knee surgery limited him to just five appearances. Since joining from PSV Eindhoven in December 2010, Afellay has scored two goals in 33 appearances, including one in Barcelona's 3-1 Champions League final triumph over Manchester United last year.

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