Home > Football > Flying under the radar: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Flying under the radar: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

In this, the second instalment of our ‘Flying under the radar’ series, we take at look at Schalke and Netherlands goal machine Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Some players are simply born to score goals; Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is one of them. The Hunter follows in the footsteps of other great Dutch goal getters such as Marco van Basten, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy, continuing a rich footballing tradition in the country. Huntelaar’s record measures up to that of almost anybody playing in Europe and very few can match his strike rate at international level. However, the Schalke striker is not held in the same high regard as the likes of Wayne Rooney, David Villa or Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Why is this the case?

When it comes to flair and eye-catching moments of skill, Huntelaar cannot compete with the likes of Rooney and Ibrahimovic, but a striker’s primary job is to score goals and there are not many better than Huntelaar at doing this. He does not drop deep to find the ball in the same way that Rooney and Ibrahimovic do, he is instead a good old fashioned striker whose game revolves around finding the back of the net. He seems to have an innate sense of when a scoring opportunity will present itself, always being in the right place at the right time – the mark of a top-class striker. He makes excellent runs to get in to scoring positions and once he has a sight of goal, he is unerring in his finishing. Huntelaar scores goals with both feet and has also earned a deserved reputation for being an excellent header of the ball (as England fans are all too aware after last month’s friendly at Wembley). You are also unlikely to find a better penalty taker anywhere in Europe. All of this means goals, goals and more goals, but in recent years, Huntelaar has had to cope with a fair amount of disappointment.

Huntelaar first came to the attention of those outside the Netherlands when he played for Ajax (2006-2009). Just as the likes of Marco van Basten and Ruud van Nistelrooy had done before him, Huntelaar found the net with astonishing regularity in the Eredivisie. 76 goals in 92 league games and 105 in 136 in all competitions attracted the attention of a whole host of bigger clubs. This quickly turned in to a scramble for the then 25 year old’s signature, with Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid reportedly all involved. In the end, the Spanish club were successful and in January 2009, Huntelaar moved to the Spanish capital for an initial fee of around €20 million.

The move to Los Merengues proved to be a strange and ultimately short-lived one as Huntelaar spent only half a season at the Bernabeu. The Dutchman did not exactly flop as he scored eight goals in 20 appearances, only 13 of which were starts, but Real were seemingly unimpressed and decided to offload him after just six months at the club.

Huntelaar has already scored 31 times for his country (This image is the property of The Sun)

Huntelaar was given another chance to prove himself at a top European club when AC Milan paid €15 million for him in August 2009. Huntelaar showed glimpses of his brilliance at the San Siro but again, the move was ultimately a disappointment. The form of Marco Borriello meant that the Dutchman made only 25 appearances in Serie A, many as a substitute, and he could only muster seven goals.

Huntelaar’s failure to establish himself in Madrid and Milan led to some doubting his ability to cut it in Europe’s top leagues and is probably the reason that he is not as highly regarded as he should be. Nonetheless, German club Schalke were keen to acquire the services of a talented striker and so paid €12 million for him in 2010.

The striker has re-found his scoring touch in Gelsenkirchen and has again started to attract the attention of bigger clubs. In fact, Schalke are rumoured to be tabling a new contract worth a reputed €7 million a year to ward off potential suitors, such is his importance to the team.

In his first season in Germany, Huntelaar managed a solid but unspectacular total of 13 goals in 35 appearances, but during this, his second season at the Veltins Arena, he has exploded in to life and has already fired home a career best season total. So far, The Hunter has netted 37 times in 36 appearances, including 19 in the Bundesliga. If you except Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, this scoring form is as good as anything in Europe. Huntelaar has become the go-to guy in a Schalke side gunning for Europa League glory and pushing for a place in next year’s Champions League, and he is seemingly revelling in this role.

The 28 year old has taken this form in to the international arena. He was the top scorer in qualifying for Euro 2012 with 12 goals, and with 31 goals in 50 caps for the Oranje; he is already his country’s seventh leading scorer of all time. With only 10 more goals needed to usurp Patrick Kluivert at the top of that list, Huntelaar may very well go on to re-write the Dutch football record books. In fact, at international level, Huntelaar’s strike rate is superior to that of Robin van Persie, Denis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Marco van Basten; no mean feat.

Following disappointed, short-lived spells at Real Madrid and AC Milan, Huntelaar has flown under the radar for some time, but now he is back to doing what he does best, the transfer rumour mill is in overdrive again. Perhaps, just perhaps, people are starting to realise what a world-class striker he is. Schalke will just hope that his good form does not cause them to lose their prized asset.

Name: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Place of Birth: Voor Drempt, Achterhoek, Netherlands

Nationality: Dutch

Date of Birth: 12th August 1983

Club: Schalke 04

Previous Clubs: PSV Eindhoven, De Graafschap (loan), AGOVV Apeldoom (loan), Heerenveen, Ajax, Real Madrid, AC Milan

Career League Appearances: 274

Career League Goals: 177

Total Career Appearances: 348

Total Career Goals: 227

International Caps: 50

International Goals: 31

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