Ruud van Nistelrooy signs 18-month contract with Hamburg

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The Independent Football

Hamburg have won the race to sign Real Madrid striker Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had been linked with West Ham United, Stoke City and Tottenham Hotspur in the last week.

The 33-year-old Netherlands international has penned an 18-month contract with Hamburg and moves to the HSH Nordbank Arena on a free transfer.

Hamburg coach Bruno Labbadia confirmed: "Yes, we have made an agreement with Ruud. I'm very happy that he has decided to join us. He's joined for free."

The former PSV Eindhoven and Manchester United star scored 33 goals in all competitions in his first season in Spain but featured in only seven La Liga games in his last 18 injury-ravaged months.

The prolific forward found the net 150 times in 218 matches for United before scoring 59 goals in 87 appearances for Real.

Meanwhile, van Nistelrooy has admitted that a need for regular first-team action was behind to his decision to leave Real.

He told Marca: “Saying goodbye to Real Madrid is very difficult.

“It has been one of the most difficult decisions of my career, but I felt I had to play and Hamburg gave me a great opportunity.

“The coach and president called me and told me I'm going to be very important. I only want to play and Hamburg gave me this opportunity.

“When I started the season I was convinced I was going to play. I felt very good and I knew that I was going to have my moment, but I've not been lucky.

“Now there are only four months to go to the end of the season and I know that I was going to have few opportunities at Madrid.”

Schalke wing-back Rafinha is excited to be linked with a possible transfer to Atletico Madrid this month.

New Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores is keen to restructure his side's porous defence and believes the 24-year-old would be a welcome acquisition.

The Brazilian, who has also been linked with Wolfsburg, AC Milan and Juventus in the past, told El Mundo Deportivo: "Atletico Madrid are the third biggest club in Spain.

"They have a team of great players and for me it is an honour to know that they are interested in me.

"But I am a Schalke player and the club will decide on my future."