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Star Man: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Posted on 28 September 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

Ruud van Nistelrooy has got that scoring knack - the sort that persuades managers to fork out 19-odd million.

He has already amassed nine goals this season in all competitions for Manchester and Holland and is many people's favourite to top the scoring charts come the end of the campaign.

But van Nistelrooy has arrived at fame and fortune the hard way around. Reward for progress, hard work and development, rather than simply a gift from the Gods.

The Observer's world football columnist Simon Kuper made an interesting comparison between van Nistelrooy and Patrick Kluivert in a recent article, the two being born on the same day.

Kuper wrote: On 1 July, 1976, the day Patrick Kluivert was born in Amsterdam, Van Nistelrooy came to earth in the southern Dutch town of Oss.

Aged 14, he left Nooit Gedacht for mighty Margriet in Oss. Soon FC Den Bosch, a local professional club, invited him for a trial match. The Den Bosch youth coach still remembers that after Van Nistelrooy scored in the game, instead of remaining blase like a normal Dutch kid, he raced off cheering. At 17 Van Nistelrooy made his debut for Den Bosch. He spent two more years at the club, mainly playing in central midfield, while Kluivert was scoring the winner in a Champions League final and playing for Holland.

Then, to Van Nistelrooy's tremendous excitement, he was signed by Heerenveen. It was here that a metamorphosis began. Until then Van Nistelrooy had been a clumsy player, quick and eager but with mediocre ball control and a modest reading of the game. In 1997, one Kluivert was worth about 30 Van Nistelrooys. But Foppe de Haan, the Heerenveen manager, decided that the player had something - in particular, his peculiar broad feet, which, the manager thought, had as much feeling as other people have in their hands. He sent Van Nistelrooy to a Holland match to study Dennis Bergkamp.

Desperate to learn, developing from slender youth into brawny man, and blessed with those broad feet, in nine months Van Nistelrooy outgrew Heerenveen. In 1998 PSV Eindhoven bid £4.7 million for him. It was the highest fee ever paid by a Dutch club, and everyone said it was ridiculous, but he went to Eindhoven and was told he would start on the bench. He was then still mainly an attacking midfielder. Bobby Robson was lucky enough to be PSV's manager that year. Muddling along without discernible tactics, the club was saved by Van Nistelrooy, who scored 31 league goals. He got to this point without much coaching, and it shows. Van Nistelrooy is a footballer from the Netherlands but not a 'Dutch' footballer, just as Stam (another Dutch provincial) isn't a 'Dutch' footballer while David Beckham (blond, beautiful pass, can't tackle, in love with himself) is a Dutch player.


Kluivert's parents were Surinamese immigrants, his father a former footballer whose name is still legendary in the Dutch West Indies. While at primary school, the boy joined Ajax. Kluivert was born to greatness. Van Nistelrooy had to achieve it through his deeds. His father was a radiator mechanic, his grandfather a cattle farmer, his first football club named Nooit Gedacht (Never Thought Of It) and he grew up in entirely the wrong place. Van Nistelrooy was raised in the village of Geffen near Eindhoven, south of the great rivers that dissect the Netherlands. This is the province of Brabant, where the people are Catholics, more friendly and much less arrogant than in the north. They are more like Belgians than Dutchmen.

The Dutch south doesn't produce footballers, just cyclists. Almost all the country's great players - Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Krol, Rensenbrink, Van Basten, Gullit, Rijkaard, the De Boers, Bergkamp, Kluivert and Davids, to name a few - are from north of the great rivers, mostly from Amsterdam or neighbouring towns like Utrecht. Of current Dutch internationals, only Van Nistelrooy and Boudewijn Zenden (a Maastricht boy) are from south of the rivers. The south doesn't produce footballers because it doesn't educate them properly. At Nooit Gedacht, Van Nistelrooy was raised by cheerful volunteers.

Our own Hans Segers feels that Ruud is doing very nicely thank you since arriving at our shores.

"I think he's settled quite well. I've seen him play at PSV Eindhoven and with the national team and he's just a quality player.

"I think he's already proved it over here. He's been scoring goals so he's done very well and I'm not surprised."

On the lack of a good production line in the Dutch south, Hans added: "There is not many quality players come from there, it is more from the west. He is one of them though.

"When I saw him for the first time at PSV I thought he was incredible, in the league of Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp in terms of scoring goals.

"He's a grafter, and with the setbacks he's had with his injuries, he worked really hard to get back at PSV and onto Manchester United now."