Belfast Telegraph

Van Nistelrooy calls it quits

Malaga striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has announced his retirement from football at the age of 35.

The former Holland international has suffered a difficult year since arriving in the south of Spain from Hamburg last summer, scoring just five times in 32 appearances. However, he did help guide Malaga to their first ever top-four finish and thereby ensure Champions League football for the first time in their history.

Van Nistelrooy told a press conference on Monday: "Yesterday was my final game as a professional footballer. I wanted to play in the Champions League, but it is the moment to leave. I have arrived at my physical limit and I can't play at the maximum level. I couldn't have had a better send-off than this."

He went on: "I feel happy that I am the one taking this decision. I would like to thank Malaga, the technical and medical staff for an unforgettable year. I am proud to have won collective and individual titles, but my greatest satisfaction was to be able to work day after day, year after year."

Van Nistelrooy's career began in his homeland with Den Bosch before moves to Heerenveen and PSV Eindhoven, where he made his name.

After securing the Eredivisie Golden Boot in both the 1998/99 and 1999/2000 seasons, he seemed set to join Manchester United in a near £19 million move. However, United called off the transfer due to fitness concerns and within days Van Nistelrooy ruptured cruciate knee ligaments during a training session.

That injury did not dissuade United manager Sir Alex Ferguson though, as he went back for Van Nistelrooy the following summer and was duly rewarded as the striker delivered 150 goals in 219 games in his five seasons in Manchester and guided them to the title in 2002/03.

He moved to Real Madrid in the summer of 2006 and 53 goals in two seasons saw Real capture back-to-back Primera Division titles. But once again injuries took their toll as he missed almost the entire 2008/09 campaign with a meniscus problem and then found himself behind Raul, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema the following season.

An 18-month spell at Hamburg followed before returning to Spain and Malaga for his final season as a professional.

Van Nistelrooy also bagged 35 goals in 70 international appearances for Holland, including strikes at Euro 2004, World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008, and is the second highest all-time goalscorer in the Champions League with 54 from 81 appearances.

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