ESPN have hired Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gilberto Silva to be two of their analysts for the network’s coverage of FIFA World Cup 2014.
Joining former Manchester United and Real Madrid striker Van Nistelrooy and former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto will be Taylor Twellman, Alexi Lalas, Steve McManaman, Santi Solari and Michael Ballack.
Interestingly, both Gilberto and Van Nistelrooy played in the infamous Battle of Old Trafford match between Arsenal and Manchester United in 2003 when the 0-0 draw was overshadowed by Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira getting sent off for fouling Van Nistelrooy, and the confrontation by Arsenal players in Van Nistelrooy’s face as he walked away after missing a penalty late in the game.
I haven’t had the opportunity to watch Van Nistelrooy or Gilberto in a pundit role, but they’ll definitely be fascinating to watch.
“Adding Gilberto and Ruud to our roster of insightful analysts will make this the most memorable World Cup on ESPN for the U.S. audience, as this seminal event returns to its spiritual home in Brazil for the first time since 1950,” said Jed Drake, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer. “Their analysis will be based on intimate knowledge of the teams representing Brazil and the Netherlands, two powerhouse soccer nations in this competition.”
Silva played 16 matches for Brazil in three FIFA World Cup competitions (Korea-Japan 2002, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010). He manned the midfield for the Seleção from 2001-10. His performance as a defensive midfielder on the 2002 World Cup-winning team earned him a European contract from Premier League side Arsenal FC from 2002-’08. Silva played three seasons for Panathinaikos after joining the Greek club from Arsenal in July 2008. He ended his European football career after nine years, returning to Brazil to play for Grêmio in 2011.
From 1998-2010, van Nistelrooy was regarded as one of the best strikers in European football. In a career that spanned 19 years including five seasons at Manchester United and four with Real Madrid, he played on three football clubs that won at least one league title in three different leagues – Dutch Eredivisie, English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga. When Van Nistelrooy retired in 2011, he had scored 51 career UEFA Champions League goals, which ranked him second at the time amongst all goal scorers in the competition. (He has since been surpassed by Messi and Ronaldo and is currently ranked No. 4). He played in three top-tier international football competitions for Netherlands – the UEFA EURO 2004 and 2008, and 2006 FIFA World Cup.