Athletic Bilbao 0 Real Madrid 1: Van Nistelrooy proves worth to earn new Real deal

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The Independent Football

Ruud van Nistelrooy scored his seventh goal in 12 games and confirmed that Real Madrid have offered him a new contract to keep him at the Bernabeu until 2010 on Saturday. "In terms of value for money he is one of the greatest signings of recent times" said the club's sporting director, Predrag Mijatovic, as the Dutchman's goal was enough for Real Madrid to beat Athletic Bilbao and ensure that they will face Barcelona at the Nou Camp on December 23 in El Clasico, as the league leaders.

Asked about the new deal the 31-year-old confirmed: "It's almost finalised and I'm very happy with it. It's a nice Christmas present."

Few people get the better of Sir Alex Ferguson in the transfer market and Real Madrid are no strangers to overspending on underachievers but 32 league goals in 49 games is a phenomenal return on a 12m signing.

"We kept our heads and it was our patience that won us the game" said Van Nistelrooy who typified that approach he barely had a kick for 55 minutes before settling the match with a moment's magic.

Raul dispossessed Aitor Ocio 35 yards out and fed Van Nistelrooy who drifted in from the left and unleashed a right-foot shot from the edge of the box that beat Daniel Aranzubia in the Athletic goal a collector's item from the man who could not score from outside the penalty area in England.

The goal finished off an Athletic side that spurned early chances. Fabio Cannavaro's eighth-minute error should have been punished by David Lopez but Iker Casillas kept out his shot. Casillas also saved Fernando Llorente's cross-shot with 15 minutes left as the home side pushed to equalise.

On Tuesday they are back on home soil in their crucial final Champions League game against Lazio with qualification still to play for. Despite limping off with six minutes left Van Nistelrooy has declared himself fit and available for the game.

l Ronald Koeman's Valencia, who meet Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday, continued their poor run of form with a 0-0 draw at Osasuna.

Athletic Bilbao (4-4-2): Aranzubia, Ustaritz (Orbaiz 40), A Ocio, Amorebieta, Koikili, D Lopez, J Martinez (Anduriz 60), Yeste, Iraola, Llorente, Etxeberria.

Real Madrid 4-4-2: Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro, Torres, Sneijder (Gago 74), Baptista, Diarra, Robinho (Robben 87), Raul, Van Nistelrooy (Guti 82)