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It's not just about a player joining his former club

The reaction was reactionary, the response unconditioned. He wanted, and wants, to go - it's as simple and as complicated as that.

Out of the blue Real Madrid approached Ruud van Nistelrooy to return to the Bernabeu and the player said yes, without even bothering to think twice about his current contract with Hamburg.

Not that it is a wholly unholy thing to do. After all, van Nistelrooy is leaving Hamburg for Real Madrid, from an ambitious club in a progressive but yet to be fully recognised domestic league to the world's biggest and most successful club in the most attractive domestic league in Europe. Furthermore, van Nistelrooy has achieved success at Madrid, winning the 2006-07 and 2007-08 Primera Division titles and the Pichichi in 2007.

Of course, Hamburg wouldn't make it that simple and neither should they. They persistently insist that van Nistelrooy must respect his contract at the Bundesliga club that runs until the season's end and are unwilling to give in to 'player power'. They may be playing hardball and even if they are, it cannot be unjustified.

Apparently, all this looks simple - after all, this is about a club not willing to let its player leave for another team, but it is not.

Peeling off the layers you would perceive that the implications of this move, if indeed it does go through, would be starkly revelatory, more so for Real Madrid, who have a reputation – not entirely unfounded, it must be added – that they don't treat their players well and shed them at the turn of every season.

Madrid are recalling a former player, a former successful player whom they thought was surplus to requirement in the middle of last season and allowed to leave for free. It is an admission that they were wrong in letting him go, that they need him to rescue them; they are the one who broke the relationship and they are the one who want to fix it – a sign of weakness in any sort of relationship.

Or is it? Gauge the market for available strikers – decent, goalscoring, recognised, experienced strikers who have played with big clubs in big competitions – and you would struggle to name five.

Samuel Eto'o, Diego Milito, Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Llorente, Amauri and Miroslav Klose all have been linked with a move to the Spanish capital but such moves are largely wishful thinking - either Madrid would have to pay through their nose as in the case of Tevez, or settle for sub-par forwards not fit enough to wear the shirt as is the case with Adebayor and Amauri, or the players are unavailable like Milito.

Which means that van Nistelrooy becomes an attractive prospect even in his mid-30s. His is going to be a loan deal for the rest of the season – and by then his contract with Hamburg would have expired and he would be a free agent, so no wonder HSV are dismissive of Madrid's offer – and his experience in La Liga and in Europe, eligibility to play in the Champions League knockout rounds, clinical ability, adeptness at playing as the targetman up front, and his previous partnership with Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United all contrive to make the 34-year-old veteran a ready-made quick-fix solution: the best available solution.

Ruud awakening | van Nistelrooy's return would signal a change in attitude from Real

Then you need to understand that van Nistelrooy wants to go, claiming that "there are very deep emotions involved" with the club, his instantaneous response only augmenting the conviction that he didn't want to leave the Bernabeu in the first place. It's not that Madrid are offering him anything exceptional, it is the Dutchman's prompt response that makes this so very intriguing.

Of course, if Madrid (or Barcelona or Manchester United) send you an invitation you accept it with glee but this is the player who was let go because he was considered not good enough anymore for the shirt.

This is a player, who like Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder before him and Rafael van der Vaart after, didn't want to leave but had no options. This is a player who was a marquee signing of president Florentino Perez's predecessor, Ramon Calderon.

Sneijder, Robben, and van der Vaart didn't want to leave and were virtually tied to the cannon ball and fired away, and now van Nistelrooy's possible return makes for some very interesting and complex reading for Madrid.

Outsiders would be tempted to suggest that Madrid do not treat their stars well and that they 'brainwash' the players into signing for them and when they fail, they simply eject them to the first willing buyer.

While part of that notion is true, there's no denying that there is something about Madrid that makes them attractive even during the want years not only to prospective new players but to former players as well.

Of course, former Madrid players like Luis Enrique love to loathe the club and their way of doing things, which implies that there is no defined line dividing the good from the bad at the Bernabeu – there is one large grey area that makes it somewhat complicated to comprehend. Van Nistelrooy's prospective return to Madrid falls in this large grey area.

The Real Madrid-Ruud van Nistelrooy-Hamburg saga is not just about a big team adding a former player to their ranks.

This is about a club sidelining its ego and transfer policy and going on its knees for salvation, about an arrogant club's admission that it is now and has been wrong to let its players leave, about the willingness of a European giant to call for desperate measures during desperate times disregarding chivalry or honour.

But then again, this is also about a club approaching a player directly and with firm belief that it will get him, about a club confident in its persuasion to recall someone they had deemed surplus, about a club carrying on with its policy to talk to the player first and his club later.

You see, it's not black and white - it's grey.

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