Oct 14, 2010

Numbers Favour The Hunter

By Mohamed Moallim

27 goals in 37 games for AGOW, 39 in 61 for Heerenveen, 105 in 136 for Ajax, 8 in 20 for Real Madrid, 7 in 30 for AC Milan and so far 5 in 7 for Schalke 04. Throw in 24 goals in 39 games for Holland, we can conclude that Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is nothing less than a serial goal scorer.

However there are some anomalies when looking at some of the stats above in particular his time at Real Madrid and AC Milan a frustrating period in his career no doubt. Much of his goals for AC Milan and appearances came as a substitute with Real Madrid it was a mixture of both.

When Huntelaar made his move to the Bernabéu in January 2009 after the back of an incredible spell at Ajax (105 goals in 136 games), he found himself managed by a manager who didn’t sign him. It was Bernd Schuster who wanted to bring him but as soon as Huntelaar signed Schuster was shown the door and replaced with Juande Ramos who seemed to not want anything to do with the player. This was evident when after a cock-up by Real Madrid who also signed Lassana Diarra in the same window realised they could only select one for their Champions League squad – they chose Diarra and immediately they crashed out to Liverpool (not scoring in the two ties at all).

Despite all of this chaos, he still managed to do what he does best and that is find the back of the net, he went through a spell of scoring his 8 goals in a 5 game spell starting with his first away to Sporting de Gijón (Feb-15-09) and last home to Almería (Mar-22-09). He was only at Real Madrid for half a season when Florentino Pérez returned as President during the summer of 2009 he knew his time was up and left for pasture new at AC Milan, for time Huntelaar had been linked with a move to Serie A notably Juventus and I genuinely thought Milan made a real coup as Serie A would suit him to the ground – how wrong I was.

In truth his playing time was limited due to the form of teammate Marco Borriello and then manager Leonardo preference to use Filippo Inzaghi as a first sub. However like at Real Madrid despite the limited opportunities he still managed to get his goals notably away to Catania when he came on as a 84th minute sub and won the game for Milan 2-0 with two breathtaking goals.

And it is this with Huntelaar, he’s not your atypical poacher, yes in and around the box he is lethal as they come and will get his fair share of scrappy goals (they all count) but he has an elegance about him, he can score all types of goals: with both his left and right foot, his head, free-kicks, overhead/bicycle kicks you name it. He’s shown that as a lone forward or with a partner (i.e. Luis Suárez, Gonzalo Higuaín or Raúl) he’ll get the job done.

He has his detractors who often lament his playing style and that he doesn’t do much or offer anything apart from scoring goals, which is the aim of football, no?

Put it short: he is the quintessential goal scorer and it’s now fitting he’s equalled one of his idols in the all-time goal scoring list for Holland, Marco van Basten the same man who handed him his first senior cap for Oranje. If Huntelaar’s time at Real Madrid and AC Milan were frustrating in terms of cementing a place in the team then the same can be said of his international career so far.

When he began to hit prominence and notoriety in his first season at Ajax (signed halfway through from Heerenveen) there were noises that he could be a shock selection for Holland’s 2006 World Cup squad. This didn’t bear fruit instead he went off to the u21 Euro’s in Portugal where he guided Jong Oranje to their first u21 crown and named player of the tournament scored in the final against Ukraine.

After Holland’s lacklustre showing in the World Cup he was given his chance in a friendly against Ireland on his senior debut, where he scored twice. Since then he’s played his part in further friendlies, qualifiers and even tournaments (scoring in Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010) but it is now, due to the absence of Robin van Persie that there is a sense that he is the focal point and he’s not letting down Bert van Marwijk.

As things stand after four qualifying games for Euro 2012, Huntelaar has played in all four scoring eight goals – van Persie will have a fight on his hands if he is to reclaim his spot, then again maybe this current system would not suit van Persie – Rafael van der Vaart playing as a deep-lying playmaker next to a midfield enforcer in Mark van Bommel with two wide attackers and Sneijder as the playmaker/maestro.

Huntelaar’s journey has been one of missed opportunities for one reason or another, not being given the chance at PSV (where he came through their ranks) to his time at AC Milan and Real Madrid. Now moving to Schalke to team up with his ex-Real Madrid teammate Raúl (who advice Schalke to bring him) to resurrect his club career one feels that he’ll enjoy playing in the Bundesliga and with this new found belief and confidence will only help him further his goal scoring tally with Oranje.

Who knows he may even beat the all time record set by Patrick Kluivert (40 goals), now he too knew where the goals were.

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