He may be injured and out-of-favor at Real Madrid but surely is one of the best and feared marksmen of his age and trade. But for more than year Ruud missed out on what could have been an outstanding time before he entered twilight of his career from the prime of performance.
The Flying Dutchman, declared a “gift from God” by a former Oranje coach Dick Advocaat and “the more decisive finisher” than Marco van Basten by another former Dutch coach Rinus Michels, began his career as a sweeper in central defense for his hometown team but moved to midfield when he joined FC Den Bosch in Eerste Divisie (Dutch second division) before finally playing as a center forward for SC Heerenveen.
Ruud’s credentials are top-notch. He has the unique and unrivalled distinction of being a top goal-scorer in Eredivisie, Premier League, La Liga, and also a three-time Champions League top scorer.
Prolific Ruud holds the record for the most goals (highest goal-scoring ratio) in a UEFA Champions League season and is second in all-time list of Champions League top scorers with 60 goals. When in 2004 he broke Denis Law’s Champions League 28 goal record for Manchester United Law said, "I'm delighted for Ruud. It could not happen to a nicer guy."
For 2006-2007 season, he won Pichichi trophy in his first season with Real Madrid, and was only third player to do it after legendary Alfredo Di Stéfano and Hugo Sánchez, while helping club win La Liga title. In the same season he scored in seven successive La Liga games to match same record achieved earlier by the likes of Olsen, Puskas, Olmedo, and Hugo Sánchez.
Following his move from Manchester United, Ruud was an instant and smash hit at Real Madrid. But after a successful first 2006-2007 season, October 2008 saw Ruud’s knee injury, aggravated during Champions League 2-1 loss against Juventus, ruled him out for up to nine months. He had picked up the injury earlier in the first-leg against Juventus.
Dr. Richard Steadman operated on him and Van Nistelrooy said “Steadman is the best in the world and I trust him totally. He actually believes my knee could get stronger than ever.” And after his return this season he voiced optimism that he feels better than before he got injured.
Ruud recovered but has played for Los Blanco only once this season against Xerez scoring one goal before getting injured again and even with his recovery, there are little chances that he will compete with young legs of Critiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema for a start at Los Blancos.
Ruud has a contract with Real Madrid until the end of current season but is probably looking to represent his Netherlands in next year’s FIFA World Cup and therefore may seek playing opportunities elsewhere.
Real Madrid reportedly has agreed to let him go in January to respect his wishes to play for Oranje. This will also indirectly help the club’s finances by lowering its wage bill.
He retired from international soccer in the beginning of 2007 after developing differences with coach Marco van Basten but came back when Edwin van der Sar intervened to resolve the matter and Ruud returned four months later replacing Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
In 2008, after Euros, he said “after studying the schedule of Real Madrid and the Dutch team I realized...playing for both teams would mean too tough a physical load for me and therefore I made this choice. I'm taking no chances.”
In August after Euro 2008 he again retired from international soccer but again retracted his decision and now wants to play in FIFA World Cup 2010.
Even now despite his repeated injuries and susceptibility to them, he is, because of his goal-scoring ability and records, is attracting interest as clubs like Chelsea Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Blackburn are looking for a striker.
According to media reports, Real Madrid want around than €3 million in transfer fee which will be a bargain for such a striker and within easy reach of medium to smaller sized clubs. However possible suitors are balking at the huge salary demand of nearly €6 million after taxes by the player which he presently earns at Real Madrid.
It was also rumored that Chelsea may do a swap with Ricardo Carvalho in a deal. Before that Roma was also interested but has recently backed down because of wage issues. And to make matters difficult, a deal involving lower salary + bonus incentives is apparently not what the striker wants in turn making decision difficult for probable buyers.
Current reports put that Liverpool (with Rafael Benitez being interested, is willing to give a two and half year deal) in the front row for his signature but initially a loan deal would interest them giving them an opportunity to assess his form and fitness before making his contract permanent.
No matter where he plays his next game, his fans are sincerely and fervently hoping that injury nightmares are over for him so he could make a last and remarkable stand for club and country before, in a couple years time, hanging up his boots on a remarkable career.
To add to the compliment of Denis Law, let us all hope that more success comes on whatever path our nice guy may choose.
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