In what was only his sixth game in the last 15 months, Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy came off the bench and scored twice for his new club, Germany's Hamburg SV, ins a 3-1 win
over VfB Stuttgart. Gabriele Marcotti traces the career and comeback of the marksman who was discarded by Real Madrid -- which was paying him a reported $8 million a year -- after a series of injuries
at age 33.
Last month, the call came from Hamburg, a team which was willing to roll the dice. The ambitious club on the North Sea was short-handed up front. Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero, who was penciled in as a starter, suffered a knee injury in September and was out until the spring. The Swede Marcus Berg, a promising but raw $13 million summer pickup from the Neherland's FC Groningen had been something of a bust, while home-grown starlet Tunay Torun was deemed too inexperienced to contribute week in and week out.
So HSV signed Van Nistelrooy to an 18-month contract. Real did not demand a transfer fee, which, given that he would have been a free agent in six months' time and that the club was getting his high salary off its books, seemed only fair. Van Nistelrooy notched 62 goals in 67 games for PSV Eindhoven between 1998 and 2001, 95 in 150 in five seasons at Manchester United and 46 in 68 in his 3 and a half years at Real Madrid. Now, there are even some who suggest he might come in handy for the Dutch national team at this summer's World Cup, despite the fact that Van Nistelrooy announced his international retirement in August of 2008.