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Ruud van Nistelrooy

Ruud van Nistelrooy Dutch footballer

Dutch footballer
Ruud van Nistelrooy
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Dutch footballer
Is Athlete Football player Association football player
From Netherlands
Type Sports
Gender male
Birth 1 July 1976, Oss
Age: 44 years
The details


Rutgerus Johannes Martinus "Ruud" van Nistelrooy (Dutch: Ruud van Nistelrooij; [ˈryt fɑn ˈnɪstəlroːi̯]; born 1 July 1976) is a retired Dutch footballer and a current manager for the PSV youth team. A former striker, he is the fourth-highest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history with 56 goals. He is a three-time Champions League top scorer, as well as a top scorer in three different European domestic leagues.
Van Nistelrooy began his career with Den Bosch, before moving onto Heerenveen, eventually making a name for himself at PSV, where he won two Eredivisie titles. 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 £19 million. His time at United was successful, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, Football 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 becoming, at the time, their all time European record goalscorer, but fell out of favour towards the end of his tenure. Real Madrid then secured 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 Hamburger SV during the January transfer window in 2010. After one-and-a-half seasons with Hamburg, he moved back to Spain with Málaga in the summer of 2011. His retirement from football was announced on 14 May 2012.

Playing career


Early club 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 midfielder to centre forward after playing part-time for Nooit Gedacht and Margriet. 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 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 following season, he won his second Eredivisie scoring title with 29 goals. According to a 2001 interview with The Telegraph, Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson said that his son Darren, who was at try-outs 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." Ferguson sent team representatives to PSV's next league game and signed Van Nistelrooy the next day.

Manchester United

Van Nistelrooy playing for Manchester United against Chelsea.

Van Nistelrooy looked set to complete a club record £18.5 million transfer to Manchester United in the summer of 2000. He was to be unveiled at a press conference four days later, but this was instead used to announce that the transfer had been postponed over concerns about his fitness, having not played for a month due to problems with his knee. The transfer was then cancelled after PSV refused to agree to further medical tests, and the next day he suffered a rupture to his anterior cruciate knee ligaments during a training session, leaving him injured for a year.

A year later, Van Nistelrooy signed a five-year contract after passing his medical. 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."


Van Nistelrooy made his debut in the Charity Shield against Liverpool, scoring in a 2–1 loss. On 19 August, Van Nistelrooy made his Premier League debut against Fulham at Old Trafford, and scored two goals to help United to a 3–2 win. He scored his first Champions League goals on 17 October in a 3–2 loss to Deportivo de La Coruña.

On 22 December, Van Nistelrooy scored his first Premier League hat-trick in a 6–1 win against Southampton. In the FA Cup, Van Nistelrooy started on the bench for the Third Round tie against Aston Villa due to a groin strain, but was substituted on for Luke Chadwick in the second-half with United 2–0 down and scored two "sublime" goals in three minutes to help United advance to the fourth round with a 3–2 win.

In total 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 goals in 34 games, with a goal on the final day against Everton earning him the Golden Boot ahead of Arsenal's Thierry Henry. His tally included three hat-tricks against Newcastle United, Fulham, and Charlton Athletic. He also scored in each of the final eight games of the season as United won the title. Van Nistelrooy won the Premier League Player of the Season in 2003. He was accredited with spearheading the title win for United with a goal tally that was described as "astonishing". After scoring 12 Champions League goals, he was named by UEFA as the best striker in Europe.


Van Nistelrooy started the 2003–04 season by scoring twice in his first two league matches. This meant he had scored in 10 consecutive league games, then a Premier League record, which stood until 2015 when Jamie Vardy scored in 11 consecutive matches. In the 0–0 draw on 21 September 2003, later dubbed the Battle of Old Trafford, Van Nistelrooy was at the centre of one of the most infamous incidents of the Arsenal–Manchester United rivalry. After missing a last-minute penalty that would have won the game for United, Van Nistelrooy was attacked by Martin Keown, prompting a melee involving several players from both sides; five Arsenal players including Keown received various bans and fines, while the club itself received a record fine of £175,000. Earlier in the game, he had been fouled by Patrick Vieira, who was sent off for a second bookable offence. Vieira and his manager Arsène Wenger both accused Van Nistelrooy of cheating and stamping on Vieira, prompting a vociferous defence by Alex Ferguson.

On 27 September, he scored a hat-trick against Leicester City in a 4–1 victory. He scored his 100th goal for the club in a dramatic 4–3 victory over Everton on 7 February 2004.

In the FA Cup fifth round derby against Manchester City, Van Nistelrooy scored twice to help ten-man United win 4–2, and again scored twice in the quarter-final against Fulham as United came from behind to win 2–1. He scored a further two goals, including one penalty, in United's victory over Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup Final.


Van Nistelrooy missed a large part of the 2004–05 season due to injury, but nonetheless scored a Champions League-best eight goals. One of them was his 30th 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."

On 24 October, Arsenal returned to Old Trafford for another dramatic fixture. Arsenal entered the fixture with 49-game unbeaten run and had been dubbed "The Invincibles", but United won the game 2–0. Van Nistelrooy scored the opening goal from the penalty spot, atoning for the penalty miss the previous year, with Wayne Rooney scoring a second. Van Nistelrooy was later banned for three games for a foul on Ashley Cole that the referee had missed. On 3 November, Van Nistelrooy scored all four goals in a 4–1 win against Sparta Prague. On 17 April 2005, he scored two goals in the FA Cup semi-final in a 4–1 win against Newcastle, but United lost the final on penalties to Arsenal.

Van Nistelrooy shields the ball during a match against Tottenham Hotspur.

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. However, he was benched for the League Cup Final against Wigan Athletic, fuelling speculation of a rift between him and 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, it was reported that Van Nistelrooy's exclusion from the squad was due to a training session fight between him and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Van Nistelrooy allegedly criticised Ronaldo's tendency to hold onto the ball instead of passing to his teammates, which sparked the fight, after which Van Nistelrooy remarked, "Go crying to your daddy," which was in reference to United's then Portuguese assistant manager, Carlos Queiroz. Ronaldo, however, took the statement literally and allegedly broke into tears since his father José had died eight months previously. Van Nistelrooy later apologised to Ferguson for his behaviour in the previous few months.

Van Nistelrooy signed with Spanish La Liga side Real Madrid on 28 July, departing Old Trafford after five seasons with a total of 150 goals in 219 appearances, with his final goal coming on 1 April against Bolton, scoring what proved to be the winning goal. With 38 goals, he is also the club's second all-time European goalscorer, behind Wayne Rooney.

Real Madrid

Van Nistelrooy playing for 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 €14 million.

Van Nistelrooy made his debut for the Spanish club in a 1–0 friendly win over Reggina on 4 August 2006. 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.

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. He underwent ankle surgery in March, 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. He finished the season with 20 goals in 33 appearances.

Van Nistelrooy signing autographs while at Real Madrid.

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. 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. 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. On 24 August 2009, in the last pre-season match before the start of La Liga, Van Nistelrooy stepped on the pitch for the first time since his injury and played the last 15 minutes of the game against Rosenborg, substituting Kaká. 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 Karim Benzema goal, following it with his own 88th-minute goal. During his strike, however, he picked up a thigh injury, where it was later revealed by Real Madrid that he would be out from first team action for up to six weeks. On 27 October, Van Nistelrooy made his second comeback of the season coming on as a substitute for Raúl in the 71st minute against Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey.

Hamburger SV

On 23 January 2010, Van Nistelrooy signed an 18-month contract with the German club Hamburger SV until June 2011. He made his first appearance for the club after coming off the bench in the last two minutes of Hamburg's 3–3 draw with 1. FC Köln on 6 February. Van Nistelrooy scored his first two goals for Hamburg on 13 February 2010 against VfB Stuttgart in the 75th and 77th minutes of a 3–1 win, after entering the game just a few minutes prior. On 11 March 2010, he scored his first UEFA Europa League goal in the 40th minute of Hamburg's match against Anderlecht.

On 15 August 2010, Van Nistelrooy scored his only competitive hat-trick with Hamburg, in a 5–1 win over Torgelower SV Greif in the first round of the 2010–11 DFB-Pokal. On 21 August 2010, he scored a brace in Hamburg's season opener against Schalke 04, which HSV won 2–1. During that match, he played against his friend and former Real Madrid teammate Raúl, who was making his Bundesliga debut. In the January transfer window, Van Nistelrooy was linked a return move back to Real Madrid and could be used for a short-term basis to cover, following injuries of Gonzalo Higuaín and Karim Benzema as manager José Mourinho would be happy for Van Nistelrooy to join the club as Mourinho left the door for him. Van Nistelrooy admitted he seriously considered moving back to the club if the bid happened. The club, however, rejected Madrid's bid for Van Nistelrooy, giving the club a warning as Hamburg wants to keep hold of him until the transfer window ended. Despite being angered over his move to Real Madrid rejected, Van Nistelrooy said he would remain committed at Hamburg. During a match between Hamburg and Hannover 96 on 16 April 2011, Van Nistelrooy suffered a calf injury that kept him out until the last matchday.

Van Nistelrooy scored 7 goals and made 2 assists in 25 appearances in his only full season with Hamburg.


Van Nistelrooy being introduced as a Málaga player.

On 1 June 2011, Van Nistelrooy arrived at Málaga to sign a one-year contract with the La Liga club on a free transfer. After joining the club, Van Nistelrooy was presented at La Rosaleda Stadium as he was welcomed by 15,000 Málaga fans. Van Nistelrooy made his debut in a 2–1 loss against Sevilla on the opening game of the 2011–12 season.

On 1 October 2011, while playing against Getafe, Van Nistelrooy scored his first goal for Málaga. On 21 December, against the same club, he opened the scoring with a volley as Málaga won 3–2 on aggregate in the Copa del Rey. Later on in the season, Van Nistelrooy scored two more goals in the league against Espanyol and Racing de Santander, which was the last goal of his career. Just one day before his retirement, Van Nistelrooy made his last appearance of his career, coming on as a substitute in the 75th minute for goalscorer Salomón Rondón, who scored the only goal in the game against Sporting de Gijón.

On 14 May 2012, Van Nistelrooy announced his retirement from football at the age of 35. He told Sport1 he previously made hints that his football career was coming to an end after insisting Málaga would be his last club.


Van Nistelrooy earned 70 caps and scored 35 goals for the Netherlands. He made his debut for the national team in a friendly match against Germany on 18 November 1998. However, the cruciate ligament injury which postponed his transfer to Manchester United also ruled Van Nistelrooy out of UEFA Euro 2000.

As the Dutch failed to qualify for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Van Nistelrooy did not make his tournament debut for the Netherlands until Euro 2004, where he and the Czech Republic's Milan Baroš were the only players to score in all three group stage matches. The Netherlands reached the semi-finals where they were defeated by hosts Portugal 2–1. Van Nistelrooy was named to the tournament all-star team.

During a 2006 World Cup qualifying match, he scored in the Dutch's 4–0 win over 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 Van Nistelrooy missed a penalty and Lima laughed at him. 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. He started, and was substituted, in all of the Netherlands' group stage matches, and scored his lone goal against the Ivory Coast. Van Nistelrooy was dropped to the bench by Van Basten without an explanation for the Netherlands' second round match, which saw them again eliminated by Portugal.

Van Nistelrooy (front) with Robin van Persie

Van Basten left the striker out of the squad for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland on 16 August 2006. Dirk Kuyt replaced Van Nistelrooy in their next match against Portugal in September. After Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was unavailable for 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 continued disputes with Van Basten, which had started back in 2006 during the course of the World Cup finals matches. After several phone conversations and at the persuasion of veteran goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, however, both player and coach put aside their differences. Van Basten announced four months later that Van Nistelrooy was returning to the Oranje. On 8 September, Van Nistelrooy filled Huntelaar's spot, as previously requested, for the qualifier against Bulgaria, scoring in a 2–0 victory, 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.

During the buildup to the 2010 World Cup, Van Nistelrooy again made himself available, but was left out by the Netherlands' new coach Bert van Marwijk. After being left out for the World Cup, Van Nistelrooy said he had no choice but to face the fact that his international career is finished.

After main striker Robin van Persie suffered an injury during a match with his club Arsenal, Van Marwijk gave Van Nistelrooy a chance to reclaim his position as the main striker of the Netherlands' national team. Van Nistelrooy was invited to two Netherlands' Group E qualification matches for Euro 2012 against San Marino and Finland. He scored in the 5–0 victory against San Marino on 3 September 2010.

He was again recalled to the squad in March 2011 for two Euro 2012 qualification games with Hungary, after injuries to strikers Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Arjen Robben and Theo Janssen. In the away game on 25 March, he appeared as a late substitute for Dirk Kuyt while in the return game in Amsterdam four days later, he came off the bench to score his 35th international goal. adding it is "wonderful to be able to add something to this Oranje team", as he told Berend Scholten.

Coaching career


In June 2013, Van Nistelrooy joined PSV as a coaching intern working with the under-17s.


In March 2014, it was announced that Van Nistelrooy would be assisting Guus Hiddink after the 2014 World Cup.

Outside football

Personal life

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. Van Nistelrooy was brought up as a Roman Catholic.


Van Nistelrooy and his wife are both heavily involved with the charity organization SOS Children's Villages. The organization 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.

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


Van Nistelrooy was sponsored by sportswear company Nike and appeared in Nike commercials. In a global Nike advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, he starred in a "Secret Tournament" commercial (branded "Scopion KO") directed by Terry Gilliam, appearing alongside football players such as Thierry Henry, Ronaldo, Edgar Davids, Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti, Ronaldinho, Luís Figo and Hidetoshi Nakata, with former player Eric Cantona the tournament "referee".

Media career

During the 2014 World Cup, Van Nistelrooy worked as a studio analyst for ESPN.

Career statistics


Club Season League Cup League Cup Europe Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Den Bosch 1993–94 2 0 0 0 2 0
1994–95 15 3 2 3 17 6
1995–96 21 2 0 0 21 2
1996–97 31 12 0 0 31 12
Total 69 17 2 3 71 20
Heerenveen 1997–98 31 13 5 3 36 16
Total 31 13 5 3 36 16
PSV 1998–99 34 31 5 1 7 6 46 38
1999–2000 23 29 2 0 8 3 33 32
2000–01 10 2 2 3 12 5
Total 67 62 9 4 15 9 91 75
Manchester United 2001–02 32 23 2 2 0 0 14 10 1 1 49 36
2002–03 34 25 3 4 4 1 11 14 0 0 52 44
2003–04 32 20 4 6 0 0 7 4 1 0 44 30
2004–05 17 6 3 2 0 0 7 8 0 0 27 16
2005–06 35 21 2 0 2 1 8 2 0 0 47 24
Total 150 95 14 14 6 2 47 38 2 1 219 150
Real Madrid 2006–07 37 25 3 2 7 6 0 0 47 33
2007–08 24 16 1 0 7 4 1 0 33 20
2008–09 6 4 0 0 4 3 2 3 12 10
2009–10 1 1 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 1
Total 68 46 6 2 19 13 3 3 96 64
Hamburger SV 2009–10 11 5 0 0 7 2 0 0 18 7
2010–11 25 7 1 3 26 10
Total 36 12 1 3 7 2 0 0 44 17
Málaga 2011–12 28 4 4 1 32 5
Total 28 4 4 1 32 5
Career total 449 249 41 30 6 2 88 62 5 4 589 347



Netherlands national team
Year Apps Goals
1998 1 0
1999 8 1
2000 1 0
2001 7 7
2002 4 1
2003 8 5
2004 11 6
2005 9 5
2006 5 3
2007 5 2
2008 5 3
2010 3 1
2011 3 1
Total 70 35
Van Nistelrooy (right) with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in training prior to UEFA Euro 2008. Van Nistelrooy originally announced his retirement from international duty in January 2007, but made a temporary comeback for the tournament. He returned to international duty in March 2011 for a UEFA Euro 2012 qualification match against Hungary, in which he scored to help the Netherlands win.



  • Eredivisie: 1999–2000, 2000–01
  • Johan Cruijff Shield: 1998, 2000
Manchester United
  • Premier League: 2002–03
  • FA Cup: 2003–04
  • Football League Cup: 2005–06
  • FA Community Shield: 2003
Real Madrid
  • La Liga: 2006–07, 2007–08
  • Supercopa de España: 2008


  • Eredivisie Top Scorer: 1998–99, 1999–2000
  • Dutch Footballer of the Year: 1999, 2000
  • Premier League Player of the Month: December 2001, February 2002, April 2003
  • UEFA Champions League Top Scorer: 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05
  • UEFA Champions League Top Assists: 2001–02
  • Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year: 2001–02, 2002–03
  • ESM Team of the Year: 2001–02
  • IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer of the Year: 2002
  • PFA Fans' Player of the Year: 2002
  • PFA Players' Player of the Year: 2001–02
  • PFA Premier League Team of the Year: 2001–02, 2003–04
  • Premier League Goal of the Month: March 2003
  • Premier League Player of the Season: 2002–03
  • Premier League Golden Boot: 2002–03
  • 2004 FA Cup Final: Man of the match
  • UEFA Club Forward of the Year: 2002–03
  • UEFA Team of the Year: 2003
  • FIFA 100
  • UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2004
  • Pichichi Trophy: 2006–07
  • IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer of the Last Decade: 2012

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