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Van der Vaart pleased with progress

Hamburg have come a long way since the start of the season since being "laughed at" at the start of the season, Rafael van der Vaart has said.

Van der Vaart, who returned to the club in the summer, had endured problems earlier in the season after his marital issues were dragged into the public eye.

However, the former Tottenham midfielder feels able to concentrate on his game again and has played important roles in the recent victories over Borussia Monchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund.

"If there are disturbances, it is not easy for you, but when all is good in your private life then you are able to perform well and score goals like the one against Gladbach," he said.

Hamburg also appear more settled. The club had problems early in the campaign, losing their opening three games and dropping out of the DFB-Pokal in the first round.

During the past few months Hamburg have slowly worked their way up the table and have become serious contenders for Europa League, and are only three points away from fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt.

"When we began this season, our opponents laughed at us," Van der Vaart said. "Now they take us seriously - that is the difference."

Van der Vaart also offered some advice to 20-year-old South Korea international Heung-Min Son, who has been linked with a move away from the club.

"I believe it would be better for Sonny to stay here for now," the Netherlands international said. "And I'm not only saying it because this is what I want. It is his first really good season. At the really big clubs, young players are more likely to be benched."

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