Hamburg captain Rafael van der Vaart has been backed by club officials amid talk of the Netherlands international being dropped by coach Mirko Slomka.
Struggling Die Rothosen saw off Borussia Dortmund 3-0 on Saturday to record their first Bundesliga win following seven consecutive defeats.
Van der Vaart, 30, missed the game through injury, and his replacement, Hakan Calhanoglou, impressed with a wonder goal from close to the halfway line.
“Without Van der Vaart, Hamburg finally played with 11 players again,” Germany legend Lothar Matthaeus said afterwards.
Matthaeus was not the only voice in Germany questioning the former Tottenham man’s role in the Hamburg team. However, speaking to kicker, sporting director Oliver Kreuzer backed the midfielder to come good.
“Rafael might not be one for the tackles, but he is a man for the special moments,” Kreuzer said. “Of course, he does not look good when all of the team is out of it. But that has never been different. He has never been a sprinter, but has been successful with his style of football throughout the years.”
Kreuzer also said that Van der Vaart would have produced a great display against Dortmund had he played.
“Whoever turns things around, and claims that the team was that good because he did not play, does him injustice,” he said.
And as Hamburg prepare for their relegation battle at northern rivals Werder Bremen, Slomka also voiced support for his captain ahead of just his second game in charge.
“Rafael is a fantastic player,” Slomka said, but the former Hannover boss did not guarantee Van der Vaart a start this weekend.
Given Hamburg’s injury problems, though, the Netherlands international could well feature from the beginning at Bremen.
Hamburg currently sit 16th in the Bundesliga, and are three points adrift of Bremen, who lie 14th.
The meeting between the sides will be the 100th of its kind in the Bundesliga, with no other two teams having played more games against each other in the league’s 51-year history.