Klaas Jan Huntelaar is one of the finest finishers in the game, he has been able to play for some of Europe’s finest clubs, but yet he has never been able to completely fulfil his true potential and live up to that world-class title.
After the round of 16 match against Mexico, the whole world was reminded of Huntelaar’s true proficiency and aptitude to alter the proceedings of a match. The Dutchman entered the field on the 76th minute of the game, in that space of time he managed just 7 touches of the ball, suggesting his impact was minimal at the most but that is far from the truth; with those 7 touches he managed to provide an assist and a goal. Sealing a place in the quarter-final, and from the confidence the Dutch gained from that victory they were able to put aside Costa Rica and proceed to the Semis. However this was one of the few moments in Huntelaar’s career where he was allowed to be the centre of attention and hog the spotlight, despite having a CV that boasts playing at some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan. The Gelderland native has never been able to establish himself as one of the World’s greatest and have a defining mark on the game, the truth is that he has had too many obstacles that have prevented him from reaching his true capabilities.
The Hunter’s career originally started with PSV Eindhoven but after representing the side on one solitary occasion he moved onto to Frisian club Sc Heerenveen were he truly began to show his talent and gain serious interest from the country’s top clubs. At the age of 20 Huntelaar showed his goal scoring potential with him netting 33 times in just 46 appearances. After showing such promise a move to Ajax was inevitable, the Amsterdammers swooped in to make a €9 million bid to lure him to the club. With the two years he spent with the club he showed that he was one hell of a talent, contributing 76 goals in 92 appearances helping his side to win the KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield on two occasions. Huntelaar’s knack of being in the right place at the right time was becoming more and more evident, the striker’s instinctive nature to sense an opportunity as well as his sharp movement was key to his success during his early years. But it was after his time at Ajax were the No.9′s fortune soon began to take a turn for the worse.
After tearing the Eredivisie apart for the past four years, Huntelaar wanted an even greater challenge, and he took on the biggest of them all by agreeing a deal with the biggest European club of them all; Real Madrid. A move to Los Blancos is a giant step in any players career, being able to play at the Santiago Bernabéu is the dream of almost all aspiring footballers. But alas despite playing at one of the greatest clubs in the history of the game, Huntelaar’s time was rather short-lived as he featured on just 20 occasions, with many coming from the substitute bench. Although he was given only a few opportunities, he still managed to make a reasonable contribution, with 8 goals in front of the Real Madrid faithful. There were many factors that contributed to why his move was never a success, firstly he was given a huge blow shortly after arriving as there was only one place for available between him and Diarra to be part of Real Madrid’s Champions League squad; unfortunately for the Dutchman they went for Diarra. Also another instrumental factor was that midway through January Real Madrid President Ramon Calderon resigned following a voting scandal. So the man who had brought Huntelaar to the club for €20 million had abruptly left, which meant that Huntelaar had had an eventful first month with the club which surely disrupted his ability to settle in. Finally the defining moment that ended the ‘Hunter’s’ time with the club was that coach Bernd Schuster was fired and the appointed Manuel Pellegrini did not see Huntelaar in his plans for the future, and so the Centre-forwards time at Los Blancos had ended prematurely after just six months with the club.
In order to get his career back on track after a hugely disappointing campaign with Real Madrid, the Dutch international decided to opt to play for another major club, this time Italian giants AC Milan. However yet again things out of the Dutchman’s control led to yet another premature stay, lasting a year this time. Firstly he had to compete with former Ajax forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the promising Brazilian, Robinho, this ultimately led to few starting chances and indicated that maybe Milan intended him to be a bit-part player. But early on in his stay with Milan, after coming off the bench in the 85th minute against Catania, he sealed a 2-0 win after scoring a brace, following this performance coach Leonardo said in an interview that Huntelaar would be guaranteed more first team chances. But this was not to be true as Huntelaar would often remain on the bench and even went through a period were upcoming talent Borriello emerged onto the scene and replaced the forwards seat on the bench. However shortly after Borriello burst onto the scene he picked up an injury that was to keep him out for a few weeks, this resulted in many experts and fans expecting Huntelaar to come back into the frame and get some much needed game time, however Leonardo opted to play club legend Filippo Inzaghi who was 36 at the time, truly solidifying the belief of Huntelaar and many others that his time at Milan was not to be. So following this after the end of the 09-10 season the Dutchman was on the move again, this time taking a slight step down to German side Schalke.
Schalke has been the club that Huntelaar has stayed true to ever since his turbulent times with Real and Milan, he has been a prolific goal scorer for the side, netting 59 goals in 100 appearances. The move to Schalke meant that the Dutchman could get the one thing he had been deprived of for the past couple of seasons, game time. This invaluable asset has meant that the Hunter has been able to get his career back on track, domestically at least. Internationally it is a different manner, similarly to his times at Real and Milan he has found himself seen as second best once again. This has been a constant through the majority of his time with the national team, he’s never been able to get a long enough string of games to solidify his place as a starter. But that’s not to say he hasn’t been clinical when he has been given his chance, he has notched 35 goals in just 64 appearances for his country, meaning he boasts a slightly greater goals per game ratio than Van Persie who has got 46 goals in 89 games. However despite being statistical more efficient than Van Persie, the Manchester United striker is always favoured due to his all-round game compared to Huntelaar’s approach as an old-fashioned no.9.
However there may be light at the end of the tunnel, with Huntelaar having such an impact in the game against Mexico, the whole world was reminded of the talent of the man who was once dubbed the next big thing. This performance has put him in the shop-window and now as it appears he is not willing to sign an extension to his contract that runs out next year, suggesting a move may well be on the cards. Interest from Liverpool and Arsenal means that he may take on a new challenge with a move to the BPL, but this time Huntelaar will be hoping that fortune is on his side and that he can prove to everyone that he has the necessary qualities required to be considered a world-class player.
*Originally published on www.football-oranje.com