When Bert van Marwijk decided against taking Ruud Van Nistelrooy to the World Cup in South Africa this summer, the veteran striker understandably believed his eventful love affair with the Oranje was over. After three well taken goals in the opening two games for Hamburg, the predatory Dutchman looks back to his sharp best and finds his services are required for international duty once again for the opening games of Netherlands’s Euro 2012 campaign.
Injury to Robin Van Persie has opened the door for Ruud’s return, but Bert van Marwijk’s decision to turn to the 34-year-old who will be 36 when the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine comes around, surely must also raise questions about the pool of striking talent the manager currently has to choose from.
A quick glance at the goalscoring charts in the Eredivisie last season and Ajax’s Uruguyan striker Luis Suarez sits comfortably on top with 35 goals. You need to look down the list to sixth place to find a Dutchman, with Heracles and Dutch under-21 striker Bas Dost racking up 13 goals. PSV’s new signing Jeremain Lens also included in Van Marwijk’s squad, notched 12 goals for former club AZ. The key striking options for the likes of PSV, Ajax, AZ, champions FC Twente, and Feyernoord this season have a distinct non-Dutch look about them.
It’s perhaps too early to read into the current goalscoring form of the other strikers called up to the squad, but Elia who is more winger than forward, has yet to open his account for Hamburg, while Kuyt, Lens and Van Persie who Van Nistelrooy replaces, have yet to register a goal this season. AC Milan striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar meanwhile, has been out of favour at the Rossoneri for some time.
En-route to the World Cup final, the Netherlands scored 12 goals, three of those which were scored by strikers, as midfielders Robben and Sneijder helped put the tally into double figures. Of course, this has a whole lot to do with the way the Dutch team is set up, usually employing a lone striker interchangeable with a trio of attack-minded midfielders just behind.
Dutch fans will probably argue that the current side is awash with so many great goalscoring midfielders that the need for players in the Van Nistelrooy or Patrick Kluivert mould may not be an immediate concern. But they need only look back to the last time they tasted success when another man called ‘Van’ spearheaded the Dutch attack to victory in Euro 1988 and had the goals to show for it.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar has long been tipped as a Van Basten successor, but the player has yet to find another club where his early promise can be re-discovered. Jeremain Lens at 22 and Bas Dost at 21 represent the future, but it is becoming apparent that Van Marwijk will need to see what these young forwards already have to offer to the senior setup.
In the short term, Van Nistelrooy who is now just eight goals shy of becoming Netherlands all-time goalscorer, could provide the Oranje the perfect cure to a lingering World Cup headache by reminding us that he is still one of the best in the business at putting the ball in the back of the net, and will be for some time yet.