Ruud van Nistelroy hopes his move to Hamburg will lead to an international comeback.
Dutch goal-machine Ruud van Nistelrooy has multiple points to prove after Real Madrid tore up his contract and allowed him to move on a free to a palpably-ecstatic Hamburg.
Not only will the former Heerenveen, PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United striker be looking to send a “perhaps you were wrong“ message to the Real hierarchy, over the next few weeks and months he will also be on a World Cup 2010 mission, aiming to convince Holland coach Bert Van Marwijk he is worth a spot in his squad.
Van Nistelrooy announced his retirement from international football in the wake of his country’s loss to Russia in a Euro 2008 quarter-final. But second thoughts were quick to resurface and, with his competitive instincts rekindled by his long lay-off, he is adamant he can be a factor in South Africa – which, incredibly for a player of his standing, will be only his second World Cup finals.
“Of course, my top priority is to play to a high standard for Hamburg and be successful with them,” said Van Nistelrooy. “If all goes to plan, if I score regularly in the Bundesliga, then I hope the national coach will give me a call. I’m always excited by fresh challenges. It’s what keeps me going.
“Playing again after such a bad injury, rediscovering my best form and going to the World Cup is a lot to ask, but I’m convinced I can do it.”
Fitness will be the key as he has already suffered and fought back from two horrendous injuries to his right knee – snapped cruciate ligaments in 2000 while at PSV, and the meniscus he tore during a Champions League tie in November 2008 – and prior to his much-heralded arrival in the Bundesliga, he had only clocked up 127 minutes in the Real first team this season. Nor is ring-rustiness his sole complaint this winter. He has been labouring with a calf problem of late and on signing for Hamburg was not immediately available for selection.
“I’m sure I still have a few years left at the top,” opined Van Nistelrooy in word-perfect German at his first Hamburg press conference. “The calf will mend soon, it’s just a matter of time, two or three weeks, before I’m totally ready to show Hamburg fans what I can do. On the whole I’ve no doubts at all about making a successful comeback. The most important matter was to get my right knee absolutely right and thanks to my surgeon, Dr Richard Steadman, it certainly is. Physically I’m a new man.
“I hope to play in the World Cup in South Africa and the only way to make it happen is to play week in, week out at a good European level. I’m going to be Hamburg’s main striker. Naturally, I don’t have it in writing that I will start automatically but that’s the feeling I had when I spoke with the coach Bruno Labbadia and members of the board.
“I’ve always been attracted to the Bundesliga. I loved watching German games on TV as a kid and for me, the German league is, along with the English and Spanish, one of the best. There are many strong sides and the stadia are spectacular and nearly always sold out.”