Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Two little boys

1st July 1976 was an important day for Dutch football. Not only was it almost exactly half-way between their first two World Cup Finals but two remarkable little boys entered the world.

Two boys who would become the highest and third highest goalscorers for Oranje: Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Two boys who never played together at a major championship. That should say something about their careers - one the tortoise, the other the hare, both suffering injuries. One suffering a spiralling drop in form.

I asked on Twitter a while back whose career would you rather have: Kluivert's or van Nistelrooy's? Answer in the comments section.

It is about equal on trophies - van Nistelrooy has more league titles (5) to Kluivert's four and more cups but Kluivert's ace in the hole is a Champions League win.

In terms of longevity of carrer, van Nistelrooy is still playing consistenly at the age of 35 (and at a decent level) compared to Kluivert who retired at 32 but who had been on a downward spiral for years.

At the international level, Kluivert wins, I think. A semi-final at the 1998 World Cup and a semi-final at Euro 2000. Kluivert was one of the players of the tournament. van Nistelrooy, for all his goals and caps, he never shone like Kluivert did nor did any of the teams he play in hit the same heights internationally.

But these stats and thoughts aren't the be all and end all.

Kluivert was the archetypal wonderkid. van Nistelrooy was the archetypal late developer. When Kluivert was scoring that goal in a Champions League final, van Nisteloory was playing for FC Den Bosch. Kluivert was, naturally, a far better player. He had all the tricks in the book. No one would have believed that van Nistelrooy would go on to score so many goals for Holland. No one would have believed that Kluivert would have scored so few (I know he is the all-time top goalscorer but the hype around him was that he would obliterate records).

Kluivert was probably the most versatile striker in the world at his peak, probably the best all-round striker to boot. He could score goals with his head, his left-foot and his right-foot. He could power past people or glide by them. His touch was gossamer like but could, on demand, pull out the hammer. His link-up play was superb but he could also create goals for himself.

His header, at 30 seconds in the video below, was perfection.

But where Kluivert wins in natural ability, van Nistelrooy wins in terms of attitude and mentality. Moreover, Kluivert's fall suggests we should pour scorn on him for not using that ability.

van Nistelrooy is a player  who started not at the footballing aristocracy that is Ajax but at Den Bosch, who fought back from a career-threatening injury only to get better and hit higher peaks. A player who no one was talking about when Kluivert was dominating Europe. A player who has enjoyed consistent success over these last ten years.

If you were a coach, who would you want in your dressing room? If you were a player, would you rather have the natural ability or the drive to eke everything out of the ability you absolutely have?

Despite all that I lean towards Kluivert. But then I'm an old romantic who wonders what he might have achieved.


Bryan said...

Great question. I think on the surface I'd say Ruud - more stable, had the better of the pair's long stays (Man U vs Kluivert's Barca) and no demons - Kluivert was guilty of vehicular manslaughter and may have had a rape case dropped.

But I'd be the hopeless romantic like you - Kluivert's natural ability was tremendous. I'd forgotten that exquisite goal he scored vs Yugoslavia in the Euro thrashing - there aren't too many of those on RVN's CV. I wish we could have gotten more of him.

dearieme said...

The Dutch looked pretty good this evening once they decided to give it a brief try. And that was against an English side that was less embarrassing than it's often been.

Josh Tarrant said...

A good question.
Both were fantastic players in there prime.
I grew up catching glimpses of Kluivert, dreaming that he would sign for United. He arrived with a bang and seemed to dissapear with a whimper. I will have to look at wikipedia to see where he actually ended up.

Then RVN. I had never heard of him when United signed him after he recoved from an injury. But oh, boy - what a player. A good ol' fashioned centerforward. One of the best that United have ever had. He left us too soon but has continued to deliver.

I apperciate them both. But, i think, it would have to be Kluivert - he may have been a short career but it burnt very brightly.

Rob Marrs said...

Thanks for the comments guys. Most kind and appreciated as ever.

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Anonymous said...

Well, Beckham and Giggs gave me those sweet passes watching ManU's games, they were the best right & left wingers in my opinion. I mean, who is the first choise they assist after Yorke&Cole?

Unlike Henry(He's still the best to me!) or Shearer(Of course, include Kluivert), RvN's skills were NOT EVEN CLOSE to those legend strikers. But he's a truly monster in the box.
No matter how ugly they were, those goals were fair, and he DID beat Henry in the Top Scorer competition! That's some kind of "sense" I think. Where is the goal? How to sent the ball in? He just knew it...

BTW, ManU strikers or scorers after RvN...
#C.Ronaldo? When playing PS2, I can score by myself only, why not?
#Saha? HA! Just kidding!
#Rooney? Not so stable, not THAT absolute...
#Berbatov? Still on the bench now... The most expensive audience?
#Tevez? Sounds Ferguson doesn't like him "enough"...
#Hernandez? Need more evidence...
#van Persie? Only played 30 minutes for ManU. The next "van"? We'll see...

Uh, I'm just a football fan from Taiwan, we can only waich LIVE europian ball game at late dinner time or even 3:00AM(sigh). Forgive me for the strange English at last!