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Ruud van Nistelrooy vs. Marco van Basten

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Ruud van Nistelrooy is a fantastic striker. All this guy does is score goals, on whatever stage he plays.

21 goals in the Premiership last year, (which could have been more if he had not been dropped to the bench), a hat trick for Real Madrid in La Liga, and a double for them in the Champions League.

He has scored 28 goals in 54 international appearances, including 4 goals in 5 Euro 2004 games, 7 goals in 10 World Cup 2006 qualifying games, and 1 goal in 3 World Cup 2006 games.

Ruud scores goals, plain and simple. So why did both Sir Alex Ferguson and Dutch coach Marco van Basten drop him from their starting lineups?

Clearly it is his attitude, and it must be a serious issue for these coaches to drop such a talented player. Ruud is obsessed with scoring goals, the ideal mindset for a striker, but there are side effects: Arrogance and stubbornness. Toward the end of last season he reportedly got in a training ground fight with Cristiano Ronaldo over Ronaldo’s tendency to shoot first and pass later. When he left United he trashed Sir Alex, saying he felt ‘stabbed in the back’ (and rightly so if you ask me). His recent refusal to join the Holland team for upcoming Euro qualifying games sends an obvious message: Don’t come crawling back after you kick me to the curb.

I have no doubt that Ruud would love to continue playing for Holland, but he is not willing to jump back on van Basten’s new-blood revolution ship after he’s been made to walk the plank. This is serious. Holland have plenty of fine strikers in their current squad, all of them young except JVoH: Ryan Babel, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt, and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. Plus winger/forward Arjen Robben. As gifted as they are, none of these players are proven goal scorers. Ruud’s rightful place is at the head of this talented group if you go by skill and track record, not to mention the benefit of experience and success on all levels of the game.

But here is the real issue: Holland has not won anything major since the 1988 European Championship. They did not even qualify for the 2002 World Cup. Van Basten wants to build a new team from the ground up — one that has tight chemistry, and a offensive strategy that does not include Ruud’s deep lurking style. So far it has not worked (see their ugly, disgraceful match against Portugal in the World Cup 2006). I do not think Ruud is the one to teach these young forwards, he is to self-obsessed and not hard-working enough, but he will score goals. If Holland do well in Euro 2008 without him, van Basten’s gamble will have paid off, but if they come up short (anything less than the semi-finals), there will be orange hell to pay. Until then, Ruud will have to be content knocking it into the back of the net for Real Madrid.

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