Ruud van Nistelrooy

Rutgerus Johannes Martinus van Nistelrooij (born 1 July 1976), better known as Ruud van Nistelrooy, is a Dutch footballer who plays as a striker for Hamburg in the German Bundesliga. He is the second-highest goalscorer in Champions League history with 60 goals. He is a three-time Champions League top scorer, as well as a top scorer in three different European domestic leagues.

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Van Nistelrooy began his career with Den Bosch, before moving onto Heerenveen, eventually making a name for himself at PSV Eindhoven where he won two Dutch leagues. His goalscoring record at PSV attracted attention from Manchester United, a deal was in place in the summer of 2000 but because of injury problems his move was secured a year later for a then British record fee of £19m. His time at United was successful, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and FA Community Shield, along with winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year twice. Van Nistelrooy hit 150 goals in just 219 games for United, as well as being their all time European record goalscorer, but fell out of favour towards the end of his tenure with Real Madrid then securing his services in 2006. Although an injury blighted the end of his days with Madrid, he did win La Liga twice and the Supercopa de España before signing for Hamburg during the January transfer window in 2010.

Van Nistelrooy made his Netherlands debut in 1998 and went on to score 33 goals in 64 internationals for them, leaving him joint third all-time top scorer for his country. He announced his retirement from international football in 2007, before being persuaded to play again, but announced his retirement again in 2008 after the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament.

Ruud van Nistelrooy at Manchester United playing Chelsea

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Ruud van Nistelrooy at Manchester United

Club career

Early career

Born in Oss, North Brabant, Van Nistelrooy started his professional career in 1993 with Dutch second division side Den Bosch, where he was converted from a central defender to centre forward after playing part-time for Nooit Gedacht and Magriet. After netting 12 goals in 31 games in the 1996–97 campaign, he transferred for €360,000 to Heerenveen the next year, and scored 13 goals in 31 matches in his only season with the club. He was then signed by PSV Eindhoven the next season for €6.3 million, a then-record transfer sum between two Dutch teams.

He scored 31 goals in 34 matches, the highest season total in the Eredivisie and second-highest in Europe overall, in addition to scoring all three of PSV's goals in a Champions League match against HJK Helsinki on 25 November 1998. Van Nistelrooy capped off the year by winning the Dutch Player of the Year award. The next season, he won his second Eredivisie scoring title with 29 goals. According to a 2001 interview with The Telegraph, Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson said that his son Darren, who was at tryouts for Eredivisie rival Heerenveen at the time, begged his father, "You've got to sign Van Nistelrooy right away, he's fantastic. We've been watching him."[2] Ferguson sent team representatives to PSV's next league game and signed Van Nistelrooy the next day.[2]

Van Nistelrooy looked set to complete an £18.5 million transfer to Manchester United in the summer of 2000. A press conference had been called to confirm Van Nistelrooy's arrival, but instead this was used to announce that the transfer had been delayed over concerns about his fitness. Days later, he suffered ruptured cruciate knee ligaments during a training session and the deal was axed.[3] When the transaction was completed in April 2001, United were forced to pay PSV an additional £500,000 for the player's services.

Manchester United

Van Nistelrooy signed a five-year contract after passing his medical.[4] He downplayed United's £19 million investment to reporters, saying "The price is not heavy for me – it lifts me up because it means United have big confidence in me."[2] During his first season, Van Nistelrooy scored 23 goals in 32 league games. He broke the record he shared with Mark Stein, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry, by scoring in eight consecutive league games. He also scored 10 Champions League goals, and was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year. The following season, he finished as the top Premier League scorer with 25 in 34 games, including three hat-tricks, and he ended the season on another eight-game scoring streak. He started the 2003–04 season by scoring twice in his first two league matches, which boosted his goals in consecutive games record to 10 matches in a row. He scored his 100th goal for the club in a 4–3 victory over Everton on 7 February 2004. He scored two goals, one a penalty, in United's victory over Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup Final.[6]

Van Nistelrooy missed most of the 2004–05 season due to injury, but nonetheless scored a Champions League-best eight goals. One of them was his thirtieth career European goal, which he scored in a 2–2 Champions League group stage draw with Lyon on 16 September 2004, overtaking Denis Law's previous club record of 28 goals. Law later said to reporters, "I'm delighted for Ruud. It could not happen to a nicer guy."[7] Manchester United were eliminated by eventual finalists Milan in the knockout stage after going scoreless in both legs.

At the start of the 2005–06 season, Van Nistelrooy scored in United's first four Premier League games. He finished as the second-highest league scorer with 21 goals, behind Arsenal's Thierry Henry. By the end of his fifth season with United, Van Nistelrooy had amassed 150 goals in fewer than 200 starts.

Van Nistelrooy was benched for the League Cup final against Wigan Athletic, fuelling speculation of a rift between him and coach Alex Ferguson, which Van Nistelrooy denied. He was nonetheless left on the bench for six consecutive league matches, and though he then returned to the starting line-up and scored match-winners against West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers, fresh doubt spread over Van Nistelrooy's future when he was benched for United's season finale win over Charlton Athletic. Ferguson claimed that Van Nistelrooy was angry at the decision and left the stadium three hours before kick-off.

On 9 May 2006, Setanta Sports reported that Van Nistelrooy's exclusion from the squad was due to a training session fight between him and team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo. Van Nistelrooy allegedly criticised Ronaldo's tendency to hold onto the ball instead of passing to his team-mates, which sparked the fight, after which Van Nistelrooy remarked, "Go crying to your daddy." The article claimed that this was not a reference to Ronaldo's father (who had died earlier in the season), but to United's Portuguese assistant coach, Carlos Queiroz.[8]

Van Nistelrooy signed with Spanish side Real Madrid on 28 July 2006, departing Manchester United after five seasons with a total of 150 goals in 220 appearances, as well as the club's all-time European scoring record with 38 goals.

Real Madrid

On 15 July 2006, Ferguson confirmed that Van Nistelrooy wanted to leave Manchester United, and Real Madrid announced two weeks later that he had signed a three-year contract after being purchased for €24 million.[9]

Van Nistelrooy scored a hat-trick in his second league match against Levante and, on 12 November 2006, he scored all four of Real Madrid's goals in a 4–1 victory over Osasuna. He won the league's Pichichi award with 25 goals as Real Madrid took home the 2006–07 title, and he also equalled the longest consecutive scoring streak in La Liga history with seven straight matches, tying a league record shared by Hugo Sánchez.[10]

In January 2008, Van Nistelrooy signed a contract extension keeping him with Madrid until 2010, with the expiration date one day shy of his 34th birthday.[11] He underwent ankle surgery in March,[12] and returned for the El Clásico derby against Barcelona on 7 May, in which he netted a penalty two minutes after coming on as a substitute.[13] He finished the season with 20 goals in 32 appearances.

In November 2008, Real Madrid announced that Van Nistelrooy would miss the remainder of the 2008–09 season after exploratory arthroscopic surgery revealed a partially torn meniscus in his right knee, with an expected recovery time of six to nine months following a second operation to repair the damage.[14] Van Nistelrooy travelled to the United States to see specialist Richard Steadman, who had previously operated on the same knee back in 2000. At the time of his injury, he had 10 goals in 12 club appearances for the season.[15] Following the injury, he was de-registered by Real Madrid for the rest of the 2008–09 season, and his shirt number was given to Dani Parejo. In the last preseason game before the start of La Liga, Van Nistelrooy stepped on the pitch for the first time since his injury and played the last fifteen minutes of the game against Rosenborg, substituting Kaka. Van Nistelrooy came on for Cristiano Ronaldo in the 80th minute against Xerez in his first La Liga match since recovering from his injury. In the 81st minute, he provided the assist for a Benzema goal, following it with his own 88th minute goal. However, during his strike, he picked up a thigh injury. It was revealed by Real Madrid that he would be out from first team action for up to six weeks.[16] On 27 October, Van Nistelrooy made his second comeback of the season coming on as a substitute for Raul in the 71st minute against Alcorcon in the Copa del Rey

Hamburg

On 23 January 2010, Van Nistelrooy signed an 18-month contract with Hamburg that would keep him with the German club until June 2011.[17][18] He made his first appearance for the club, coming off the bench in the last two minutes of Hamburg's 3–3 draw with Cologne on 6 February.[19] Van Nistelrooy scored his first two goals for Hamburg on 13 February 2010 against Stuttgart in the 75th and 77th minutes of a 3–1 win, after entering the game just a few minutes prior.[20] On 11 March 2010, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his first goal in the Europa League in the 40th minute against RSC Anderlecht.[21]

International career

Van Nistelrooy has 64 caps and 33 goals for the Netherlands. His first tournament was Euro 2004, where he and the Czech Republic's Milan Baroš were the only players to score in all three group stage matches.

As the Dutch failed to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Van Nistelrooy had to wait four years to play in his first and last World Cup. During a 2006 World Cup qualifying match, he scored in the Dutch's 4–0 hammering of bottom-placed Andorra and was yellow-carded for going to Andorra player Antoni Lima and celebrating in front of him, following an incident six minutes before when Nistelrooy missed a penalty and Lima laughed at him[22] He was a part of coach Marco van Basten's squad for the 2006 World Cup finals, for which he served as the official FIFA/SOS ambassador.[23] He started, and was substituted, in all of the Netherlands' group stage matches, and scored his lone goal against the Côte d'Ivoire. Van Nistelrooy was benched for the Netherlands' final match, which saw them eliminated in the knockout stage by Portugal.

Van Basten left the striker off the squad for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland on 16 August 2006.[24] Dirk Kuyt replaced Van Nistelrooy in their next match against Portugal in September.[25] After Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was unavailable for UEFA Euro 2008 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Belarus due to injury, Van Nistelrooy refused Van Basten's request to take his place on the roster.

On 23 January 2007, Van Nistelrooy announced his retirement from international football following some disputes with coach Marco van Basten.[26] However, after several phone conversations and at the persuasion of veteran Edwin van der Sar, both player and coach put aside their differences. Van Basten announced four months later that Van Nistelrooy was returning to the Oranje.[27][28] On 8 September, Van Nistelrooy filled Huntelaar's spot, as previously requested, for the qualifier against Bulgaria, scoring in a 2–0 victory,[29] and scored the winning goal four days later in injury time of the Netherlands' win over Albania.

At Euro 2008, Van Nistelrooy scored for the Netherlands in their decisive 3–0 victory over Italy in the group stage, and scored the equaliser in their eventual 3–1 loss to Russia in the quarter-finals. On 4 August, he again announced his retirement from international competition.[30][31]

During the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup Van Nistelrooy again made himself available, but was left out by van Marwijk, the Dutch team coach[32]

Personal life

Family

Van Nistelrooy married his girlfriend, Leontien Slaats, in July 2004. The couple had their first child, a girl named Moa Annette, in September 2006, and a son named Liam in March 2008.[33][34][35]

Charity work

Van Nistelrooy and his wife are both heavily involved with the charity organization SOS Children's Villages. The organisation has been around since 1949 and is an international development charity which serves to protect the interests and rights of children. Van Nistelrooy was officially appointed "FIFA for SOS Children's Villages" Ambassador in the Netherlands on 1 September 2001.[36]

On 17 November 2009, Van Nistelrooy and his wife hosted SOS at Real Madrid City. The purpose of the event was to help create a calendar which would be sold to benefit the organization.[37]

Honours

Club

PSV Eindhoven
  • Eredivisie (2): 1999–2000, 2000–01
  • Johan Cruijff Shield (2): 1999, 2000
Manchester United
  • Premier League (1): 2002–03
  • FA Cup (1): 2003–04
  • Football League Cup (1): 2005–06
  • FA Community Shield (1): 2003
Real Madrid
  • La Liga (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
  • Supercopa de España (1): 2008

Individual

  • Eredivisie Top Scorer: 1998–99, 1999–2000
  • Dutch Player of the Year: 1999, 2000
  • Premier League Player of the Month: December 2001, February 2002, April 2003
  • Champions League Most Valuable Striker: 2001–02
  • Barclaycard Player of the Year: 2002
  • Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year: 2001–02, 2002–03
  • PFA Player of the Year: 2002
  • Champions League Top Scorer: 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05
  • Premier League Goal of the Month: March 2003
  • UEFA Club Forward of the Year: 2002–03
  • Premier League Golden Boot: 2002–03
  • FIFA 100
  • Pichichi Trophy: 2006–07

References and Notes

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