El Tigre, The Lion King, Baggio there are many nicknames for three of the world’s most sought after strikers as Falcao, Llorente and Jovetic are courted from teams in England, Spain, Germany and Italy. The nickname however that has the most haunting resonance belongs to the fourth name on that list of wanted strikers; ‘The Hunter’. Schalke 04’s Klaas Jan Huntelaar is the epitome of the often over-used description ‘goal-machine’.
In his early career he scored goals seemingly at will for AGOVV Apeldoorn, Heerenveen and Ajax. In fact his overall goalscoring record in his club career reads just as impressively with 254 goals in 389 appearances. For his national team the Dutchman has scored 34 goals in 59 appearances.
He is currently performing similar feats with Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga. After a settling-in-period during his first season he has gone on to become a fiend in front of German goals. Last season he bagged a greedy haul of 48 goals in 47 appearances and this term sits on a better then goal-a-game average.
With his contract expiring in the summer there is understandably a clamour of clubs being linked with a move for the player including many a Premier League outfit. Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur have been mentioned and the Premier League is one frontier yet to be embarked upon by ‘The Hunter’.
Yet when he becomes the hunted by scrutinising press they are quick to point out two largely ‘unsuccessful’ spells with big teams. His time at Real Madrid and AC Milan in particular were deemed miss-hits.
With Real Madrid this seems harsh. He joined the club off the back of a serious ankle injury and in just half a season in the Spanish capital he was immediately left out of the Champions League squad and restricted to mostly appearances from the bench. His eight goals for Los Merengues came in 20 appearances however many of these were as a substitute (only 13 starts).
He moved to Milan where the obvious comparisons with Rossoneri legend Marco Van Basten laid a lot of pressure at his door. He became a substitute in the team after the surprising form of Marco Boriello and at the end of the season the striker who always makes it clear that ‘he must enjoy his football’ clearly was not. When Zlatan was brought in to Milan Huntelaar forced a move with a disappointing seven goals in 30 appearances behind him. Again the stats are deceptive for a player who spent most of his time warming up the Recaro seats in the San Siro. He made just 11 starts at AC Milan again making his seven goals a less off-putting stat.
Since going to Schalke he hasn’t looked back and goals have been coming fast and loose in Gelsenkirchen.
Huntelaar himself does not yet feel he has reached his peak. In an interview in February he mentioned this fact:
‘’I'm someone who has grown physically at a later age, I was always one of the smallest players, I was around 1.60m or so, and then when I was 17 or 18 I started growing. You can see that in my development now, physically speaking, and I think even now, the older I get, the stronger and better I get. I think I still have one or two years before I reach my peak."
With a potential move in January English clubs should not be put-off by his spells in Spain and Italy and take a punt on the signing this goal-getter while he reaches his peak.
image: © tpower1978