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Somehow when the discussions of the world’s top strikers come up, Ruud van Nistelrooy’s name seems to get lost in the shuffle. While the stunning talents of Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic deserve mention, Van Nistelrooy should not be forgotten.

Yet somehow the prolific Dutchman continues to be overlooked.

The simple fact is, Ruud scores goals, and in the end that’s all that matters.

Since appearing for two games for FC Den Bosch in the 1993-94 season, Van Nistelrooy has been finishing ever since. After a modest 17 goals in his first three-plus seasons with Den Bosch, Van Nistelrooy transferred to SC Heerenveen and scored 13 goals in 31 games during the 1997-98 season. Next came a move to PSV Eindhoven and a return of 71 goals in 82 games caught the attention of Europe and Manchester United specifically.

While with the Red Devils, Van Nistelrooy scored 150 goals in 201 games, including four seasons of 20 or more goals in league play. He was the Premiership’s top scorer in 2002-03 and named the PFA Player of the Year for 2002.

However a falling out with United manager Sir Alex Ferguson signaled Van Nistelrooy’s exit from Manchester despite 24 goals in 39 games during the 2005-06 season. With the discord between Van Nistelrooy, Ferguson and rumors of blows with Cristiano Ronaldo, the Dutchman was shipped to Real Madrid. Critics promptly began to declare Van Nistelrooy’s career over and his days as a top striker finished.

Then came last season and 33 goals in 46 games, including 25 in La Liga for showed just what type of player he is. Add in 25 goals in 34 games in international competition for the Dutch national squad and a seven-goal start in La Liga this season and it’s clear that Van Nistelrooy is as dangerous as ever.

What has made Van Nistelrooy so deadly over the years isn’t blazing pace or an array of trickery. It is just pure predatory instincts inside the penalty area and an ability to finish clinically and coolly no matter the situation. There may not be a better finisher inside of 12 yards in the world, and that’s a valuable commodity to have because even if the ball is near the goal, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to put in the goal. But Van Nistelrooy isn’t just a box predator he can finish from distance when called upon and uses his height to his advantage to finish off aerial challenges.

His ability to be stand-alone center forward or pair with a partner like Raul at Madrid has made him a versatile and adaptable striker.

At 31-years-old, Van Nistelrooy has not shown the adverse affects of aging (paging Andriy Shevchenko) and continues to produce quality. While he has never wowed the masses with fancy footwork, his relentless effort to find the back of the net has made him as valuable as any striker in the world.


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