Sunderland have enjoyed the luxury of a number of talented strikers over the years and are currently benefitting from Ellis Simms and Ross Stewart’s knack for finding the back of the net.
The likes of Kevin Phillips, Darren Bent, and Jermain Defoe are other forwards who had fantastic spells in front of goal at the Stadium of Light, but there is one player who could have added his name to that list – Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Back in 2000, Black Cats boss Peter Reid revealed that the prolific Dutch marksman was a player on their radar in 1997, saying:
”He’s a quality player and someone we were looking to buy three seasons ago when he was still something of an unknown. It was just after we started back in the First Division.
“At the time he was playing for Heerenveen and I think he was only 19. But they quoted us £5 million which at the time was just far too high a price for a player we could not totally be sure would be a success.”
“He has the ultimate mentality of a striker. He’s always concentrating so he can be in the right position to anticipate a pass or be in the right place to receive it. That’s what makes him so effective.
“There is nobody in the world like him. David Trezeguet is a similar player but he doesn’t have the same quality, control and technique. Ruud keeps control of the ball with three players trying to get it off him. He is the complete forward.”
Reid and Sunderland certainly made a mistake by deciding against signing the centre-forward, who ended up scoring a whopping 327 career goals at club level, for £5m in 1997.
He went on to become a prolific goalscorer in England and proved that he would have been a terrific signing at that price, particularly given that he signed for United for £14m more than that four years later. Indeed, the ex-manager is likely to have nightmares about that call over 25 years ago.