Former Netherlands international Rafael van der Vaart has revealed he turned down the chance to join Barcelona at the age of 16.
The former Ajax star was regarded as one of the biggest talents in Europe in the late 1990s and was courted by big clubs across the continent.
But he felt a move abroad that early in his career was the wrong move and decided to prove his worth at Ajax first.
“Barcelona wanted to sign me when I was 16,” Van der Vaart told Noordhollands Dagblad.
“But I never even considered a transfer. I felt that I had to make a name for myself at Ajax first.”
Ajax have lost a number of gifted youngsters before their first-team break in recent years, with Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Manchester United), Donyell Malen (Arsenal) and Javairo Dilrosun (Manchester City) among those leaving Amsterdam, and Van der Vaart has urged other young players to prove themselves in the Eredivisie first.
“That is my advice to promising youngsters in the Eredivisie as well, to show what they can do in the Netherlands first before making the move elsewhere,” Van der Vaart added.
“You see that there is a lot of hype about youngsters these days, they get all sorts of praise after a few games.
“It’s the same in the Netherlands. You play a few good games and you get called up for the national team and are being linked with big clubs.”
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