Finally, the much-travelled van Nistelrooy has decided to retire from football.
Yea, I know – he has played before for Man Ure but I’m more interested in his international career as he was once Holland’s main striker and with the abundance of talent available to the Dutch, that surely takes some doing.
As a flashback, I always loved what Martin Keown did to RvN when the striker missed a late penalty against the Arsenal in 2003 during the Invincibles campaign. Keown is right up there as one of my favourite Arsenal players of all time. This was the time when the team had balls to fight for whatever they want.
Ok, I digressed a little. He was actually one of the better Dutch players of the early 2000s. I first got to know this Dutch striker when he was still playing for PSV Eindhoven until 2001. He was first featured in the FIFA 99 game and had pretty good stats to begin with. But week-in week-out, when you read the papers and highlight the international sports section, his name would be bound to be there. That he scored at a prodigious rate for the ‘Boeren’ places him right up the pedestal with the likes of Romário de Souza Faria, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima (not Cristiano Ronaldo, the annoying Portuguese kid – the fat one), and Mateja Kežman who found playing for the Dutch powerhouse one of the most fruitful periods of their respective lives. Quite how PSV Eindhoven managed to sign these free-scoring players should baffle the Ajax and Feyenoord scouts of that bygone era.
For the Oranje, this guy had not much luck, though. The Dutch didn’t qualify for World Cup 2002 in Japan / South Korea. He played in the Euro 2004 tournament and scored four in that tournament. In the 2006 World Cup, he scored his only goal of that tournament against Ivory Coast in the second game of the group stage. After that World Cup, he got wound up in apparently irreversible differences with his international coach, Marco van Basten and weaved in and out of the Oranje setup by announcing his retirement when things didn’t go his way. He played reasonably well for the Dutch in the Euro 2008 tournament but his personal tally only came from the Italy group game and in the peculiar 3-1 loss to Russia in the quarter-finals and announced his intention to retire from the Dutch team once again. When he made himself available for the 2010 World Cup, Bert van Marwijk wisely omitted him from selection entirely and relied on Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben to lead the front line. He ended his Dutch connection with 35 goals in 70 games, meaning that he averaged a goal every 2 games that he played in.
But you’d have to remember that van Nistelrooy stepped up during the the time after Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert had lost their respective effectiveness for the Dutch team and other players like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Roy Makaay Pierre van Hooijdonk and later, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink just could not make the cut as the chief striker for the Netherlands. Not to say that he alone flew the Dutch flag as far as the striking department is in concern, but no one came really close to beating his goal charts and consistent displays bar Roy Makaay who proved a very good signing for Bayern Munich.
Anyway, here’s a goal celebration from a just concluded FIFA 99 session on my PC, a time when PSV Eindhoven was red hot. It was quite funny that he scored because usually Luc Nilis or Gilles de Bilde is in the better position to do so (in my formation for this team) but here you go –