Kluivert was the first to rise to international prominence, debuting with the Ajax senior side in August 1994 at the age of 18. Ajax won the UEFA Champions League that season, with Kluivert coming off the bench to score the winning goal in the 85th minute in the Final against A.C. Milan. He joined Milan for a brief period in 1997-98, then transferred to Barcelona, where he made 255 appearances in all competitions, scoring 120 goals.
Van Nistelrooy, meanwhile, started his professional career at Dutch Second Division side Den Bosch, where he played from 1993 to 1997. He played the 1997-98 season with Herenveen in the Eredivisie, then moved to PSV Eindhoven, where he scored 75 goals in 91 appearances from 1998 to 2001, winning back-to-back Eredivisie titles in the last two seasons. He also secured individual honors as the Eredivisie top scorer in 1998-99 and 1999-2000 and was twice named Dutch Player of the Year (1999, 2000). He continued to enjoy success with Manchester United (2001-06) and Real Madrid (2006-2010).
Although their time on the Dutch national team overlapped, with Kluivert playing from 1994 to 2004 and van Nistelrooy from 1998 to 2008, they never played together for the Oranje in a major tournament. Van Nistlerooy did not play in the 1998 World Cup or UEFA Euro 2000, while Kluivert was on the bench for the entire UEFA Euro 2004 tournament and was left out of the 2006 World Cup squad.