LUC NILIS: RONALDO'S FAVOURITE EVER STRIKE PARTNER
Luc Nilis scored goals for fun in the 90's. He lit up the Eredivisie with O Fenômeno and formed a deadly strike partnership with van Nistelrooy. He even scored 3 goals in 3 different games against Shay Given in the space of 15 days - so why did he never get the big move he deserved?
Nilis started his career at the brilliantly named KFC Winterslag (now K.R.C Genk), where he played for 2 years before getting a transfer to Anderlecht. There he scored 127 goals in 224 games, fired his team to 4 Belgian league titles, and scored some absolute screamers along the way.
At the age of 27 he decided to take the short trip from Anderlecht to Eindoven to sign for PSV, who had also just signed a 17 year old Ronaldo. Yeah - not a bad window. Over the years countless players have used the Dutch league as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, but usually closer to the beginning of their career. Nilis did it in his prime. He was only outscored by Ronaldo in his first season, won Dutch footballer of the year, and followed it up by getting his hand on the golden boot in 95/96. Ruud van Nistelrooy joined in 1998 and he and Nilis became of of Europe's hottest front lines, scoring 55 league goals between them that same season.
Nilis had attracted some attention from other European clubs during his time in the Netherlands, with Rangers eyeing him up and PSG also showing some interest (we're drooling over the pretty disgusting partnership that he could have formed with Ronaldinho). However, with van Nistelrooy close to a move to England, Nilis had his eyes on the Prem. He agreed a free transfer to Aston Villa, managed by big John Gregory, before winning a final Eredivise title with PSV.
Despite now being aged 33, 'Lucky Luc' still had a point to prove. He wanted to show that he could carry on his form into one of Europe's biggest and best leagues. His debut came in the Intertoto cup, seeming him score in a 3-1 win - a game in which (hilariously) Paul Merson was also sent off for diving. 5 days later he scored on his Premier League debut, a peach of a goal on his "weaker" left foot. It would tragically end up being his last.
On the 9th of September 2000, Aston Villa played Ipswich Town. Nilis got twatted by Richard Wright and broke his leg in 3 places. He was forced to retire later in the year, and nearly lost his leg. Who knows what might have happened. Maybe he could have helped our boy Gareth Southgate lift the Premier League trophy come May.
Despite his career coming to a premature end, he left a lasting impression on his pals from PSV. Ronaldo said he was one of the best strikers he'd ever played with, and Ruud claims that he might have been the best player he'd ever played alongside.
Don't worry Luc, we'll always love you, and will keep insisting on showing uninterested friends your goal montages down at Spoons.