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By ESPN Staff

Van Nistelrooy retires from international football

AMSTERDAM, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooy has retired from international soccer to concentrate on his club career with Real Madrid, the Dutch Football Association (KNVB) said on Monday.

It said the 32-year-old had told coach Bert van Marwijk he would no longer be available for the Dutch team after deciding he could not perform to his best for club and country.

'After studying the schedule of Real Madrid and the Dutch team I realised ... playing for both teams would mean too tough a physical load for me and therefore I made this choice,' Van Nistelrooy was quoted as saying.

'I'm taking no chances and after the enjoyable Euro 2008 finals I can look back upon (my decision) with a good feeling.'

Van Nistelrooy won a total of 64 caps and scored 33 goals after making his international debut in 1998.

The former Manchester United striker missed Euro 2000 with a knee injury and the Dutch failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup but he scored four goals at his first major tournament, the next European Championship finals in Portugal in 2004.

He scored once at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and twice at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland where Netherlands were upset by Russia in the quarter-finals.

Van Nistelrooy's decision came as a surprise to Van Marwijk, who succeeded Marco van Basten as coach on July 1.

'I had a comprehensive conversation with Ruud and I can do nothing but respect his decision,' Van Marwijk said.

'I regret that I can't use his quality and experience when I compose my squad but I wish him all the best at Real Madrid.'

The Dutch play their first international, a friendly, under the new coach on Aug. 20 in Moscow against Dutchman Guus Hiddink's Russia.

Van Nistelrooy had a fractured relationship with Van Basten, who dropped the striker for the 2006 World Cup second round defeat by Portugal.

Van Basten then left Van Nistelrooy out of his initial squad for the Euro 2008 qualifiers but, forced by injuries, invited him back in October 2006, a call the striker refused.

However, in August 2007 Van Nistelrooy straightened things out with Van Basten and returned to score two goals in the qualifying campaign.

Before the Euro 2008 finals, Van Basten announced goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar and Van Nistelrooy were his two undisputed first-choice players.

Van der Sar retired from internationals after the tournament but Van Nistelrooy appeared at that stage to be in no doubt about continuing his Netherlands career, a decision he has reversed closer to the start of the new season.

Van Nistelrooy left United for Real in July 2006 for a transfer fee of £12.3 million. He had joined the English club from PSV Eindhoven in April 2001 for a then British record of £19 million.


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