Van Nistelrooy's boots are Real gold

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

MADRID (AFP) - Ruud van Nistelrooy will be aiming not only to clinch the Spanish title for Real Madrid next Sunday but also get sole possession of the European Golden Boot award.

The Dutch striker has 26 goals to his name and is level with Roma's Francesco Totti but, with one game left in the last major European league to finish, van Nistelrooy has a chance to claim the prize for himself.

He scored both of Real's goals in their 2-2 draw at Real Zaragoza on Saturday to move level with the Italian striker.

The result leaves league leaders Real with just mid-table Real Mallorca to beat at home in their Santiago Bernabeu stadium if they are to win La Liga for a record 30th time.

"I've never known anything like it in my life. I can't describe how I feel," said the normally articulate Van Nistelrooy on Sunday.

Van Nistelrooy was the runner up in the continental scoring tables in 1999 and 2000 and picked up the two European Silver Boot awards while at PSV Eindhoven in his native country.

Despite regularly finding the net during his five seasons at Manchester United, he didn't make the European top three while at Old Trafford.

However, he has found a new lease of life at Real since moving to the Spanish capital last summer, especially during the second half of the season.

The departure of Brazilian superstar Ronaldo for AC Milan in January has made Van Nistelrooy the sole focus of attention for Real's service providers like David Beckham.

At one point he scored in seven consecutive games, equalling the best streak in la Liga history.

"'Van Gol' saves Madrid again. Without him it would not have been possible," commented Spain's leading sports daily Marca on Sunday, in the wake of his heroics in Zaragoza.

However, Van Nistelrooy knows that the dice fell in Real's favour on Saturday.

Espanyol's Raul Tamudo deprived Real's second-placed rivals Barcelona of two crucial points with an equaliser 20 seconds before the whistle in the 2-2 draw between the two Catalan clubs.

"I couldn't believe it. I was watching our fans celebrating and running towards the centre spot, because I didn't want to lose any time, and when I saw them still celebrating I looked up at the scoreboard (to see Espanyol had scored)," said van Nistelrooy.

"Against Mallorca we have to play much better than we did against Zaragoza. We had a lot of luck against them." he added.

"We played with a lot of spirit and determination and things worked out when Espanyol got an equaliser, but this is a team that never gives up.

"What's happened this season isn't normal though but we have a great opportunity now and we have to take advantage of it.

"However, we have still one game remaining so we'll have to see whether we will be champions," added van Nistelrooy, sounding a note of suitable caution.

Real have only lost one game since they drew 3-3 at Barcelona in March, a result which now gives them a firm advantage as ties in Spain being decided in head-to-head battles.

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