On Wednesday night, Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar lined up for his 150th career appearance in the Bundesliga.
He was once dubbed as one of the greatest prospects in the world while he was turning out for Ajax. Rightfully so too. His goalscoring record in the Eredivisie was phenomenal.
So what normally happens to hot prospect in Holland? They get snapped up by some of the biggest clubs in Europe. Huntelaar was no different. In 2008 he was signed by Real Madrid during the January transfer window. During his time at Ajax, Huntelaar netted 79 goals in 92 appearances. That’s not a bad record really, is it?
Real Madrid paid €27 million for Huntelaar and sold him the following summer for €15 million to AC Milan. He survived only one season in Italy before Schalke 04 paid €14 million to acquire his services. After having had such an impressive goalscoring record in Holland, Huntelaar only scored 15 goals over his two seasons in Madrid and Milan.
It’s certainly be tough moving to clubs like Real Madrid and AC Milan. The pressure to succeed instantly is almost tangible, and the world is watching. Schalke were giving him another chance.
So has he been as big a success as the world thought he would be? Well, a striker is always judged on goals. Schalke were definitely taking a risk paying as much money as they did for someone who had previously been unable to prove himself at top European clubs.
I can’t say it started incredibly for Huntelaar. In his first season with Schalke he managed only 8 league goals from 24 appearances. It seemed as if he was carrying over his poor form from Italy. Next season though, Die Königsblauen fans were in for a treat, as Huntelaar would step his game up. It seemed like classic Klaas was back. He finished the 2011/2012 season as top scorer in the Bundesliga with 29 league goals, finishing above the prolific Mario Gomez. This incredible season had Huntelaar the first player to score 29 league goals in a season since legendary Karl-Heinz Rummenigge did in 1981. This 2011/2012 season made the €14 million price tag seem like a bargain.
Fortunes change though, and since that prolific season, his goalscoring form has once again lacked lustre compared to his previous exploits. His overall goalscoring record to the this point is 186 league goals in 302 league appearances. His Bundesliga record stands at 75 goals in his milestone 150 appearances.
That record is not bad at all. Lining up against Klaas Jan Huntelaar will always be scary. He’s got the capability to produce magnificence and if you do need a goal he can certainly get one. Many would agree that he hasn’t fulfilled the lofty expectations created by his goal-scoring in the Eredivisie, but those expectations may have been unfair, given that the league has seen its share of very prolific goal-scorers over the years.* Still, he’s given a lot to Schalke over the years. The Royal Blues should be happy to have him.
* Luuk de Jong has scored 18 goals for PSV in 24 league matches, he scored only six times in 36 Bundesliga matches with Borussia Mönchengladbach a few seasons back.
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