In making all our squads and line ups for Oranje, I found that quite some people think Klaasjan Huntelaar is done for? He is not good enough? He only scores easy goals? He has no skills?
I think his track record says enough :-). Huntelaar is without doubt one of the best strikers in the world. With his left foot, right foot, with his head, etc. He does not have the pure skill of RVP or the speed of Lionel Messi but there are hardly any better real in-the-box killers than KJ the Hunter.
And he was a nuisance at the Euros? I’m sure he was. But was that his fault? I believe BVM mismanaged this situation. Huntelaar is known to be a modest chap. He is no Sneijder or Bogarde. He is a plain and simple Dutch lad. Who was promised a real chance before the Euros. And didn’t get one. When RVP missed all these chances against Denmark, obviously he was not able to respond.
The man is injured now. But he will most definitely return and I hope in the Dutch squad. A mix and match article here with info from VI, from World Soccer and other sources…
Whenever Schalke lost, their coach would send them in the mines the next day
Last season there was a lot of speculation that you would leave Schalke, but in the end you signed a contract extension until 2015. What brought you to that position?
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: I have never played in England and that was on my mind, so I asked myself if I wanted to move to the Premier League or to carry on in the Bundesliga. I talked to Schalke first and then I tried to understand what I wanted to do. I went deep inside my own mind and tried my best to listen to my heart. After a lot of soul-searching I told my agent to talk to Schalke with the instruction that I was ready to stay.
Apart from spells in Spain and Italy, you’ve played for clubs close to your home in Angerlo, Holland. How important is it that Gelsenkirchen is only 100km away and that your father can drive you to training?
It did play a role in my decision to join the club, as I enjoy living in Holland. I normally go abroad on holiday or to play a match with my club, but not to live. It was strange to live in Spain and Italy, to adapt to a new culture and learn a new language, but I am happy I did it and I do not regret it. Now I have a new two-year contract at Schalke and I am enjoying it. I can understand and speak German quite well, and this makes my life a lot easier.
On the pitch, is it realistic to think Schalke can break the supremacy
of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the next few years?
Yes, I think we can. We are a good team, but not good enough yet to better Bayern or Dortmund over the course of a season. I think we’re on the right path though, so we should keep doing what we’re doing and maybe buy a couple of quality players to bring us closer next year.
The Bundesliga is the rising force of European football isn’t it…
The Bundesliga is, for me, the best league in Europe at present. The Premier League is very good, but if you look at German clubs, they are all economically solid and healthy. It’s very well organised. Each team can beat everyone else, which isn’t like Spain, where Real Madrid and Barcelona are in a league of their own. The Bundesliga is more balanced and better in terms of quality.
You joined Schalke from Milan. How did you find life at the San Siro?
I loved the Italian way of life. In fact, everything was great in Milan apart from the football we played, which was a bit too defensive for me. This is the way Italians play and, as a result, unfortunately I did not play many times as a proper striker. I was often used instead on the right wing, which didn’t suit me. My time with Leonardo as coach was quite difficult.
Ronaldinho really admired KJH’s teeth
And before that you were in the Spanish capital with Real Madrid. What was it like there?
It was great, but also strange at the same time. I had spent all my life in Holland, then all of a sudden I was playing abroad, with different people and a new language. It felt like I was on holiday, despite working hard and playing my football. It was very unusual for me and I had the feeling I didn’t belong there, not in that country.
I had to absorb a lot of new things, to assimilate a new culture, to learn new ways to communicate. It was nice, but it was not easy. Cristiano Ronaldo was there, and Real Madrid wanted to buy Karim Benzema and Kaka, so I knew I would play less. Raul was also there, and so were Gonzalo Higuain, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Javier Saviola and myself. We almost had a special bus only for us strikers!
Any regrets about those short spells with the two European heavyweights?
No, I don’t regret anything. I had a very nice time, and personally they were two important experiences which helped me develop as a person. I learned that things in football don’t always go the way you expect them to.
As an Ajax fan, was it hard joining PSV youth academy in your early career?
Obviously PSV was not my favourite team, but at that time it was the right place for me to improve as a player, to learn new things and to develop my game. It was a bit strange for me, and I was hoping for Ajax to call me as that would have made things easier, but to move to PSV was the right thing to do at that stage.
After scoring 17 goals before January for Heerenveen in 2006, the call you had been waiting for from Ajax finally came. How did it feel when they asked you to join them?
I felt a surge of energy, but also pressure because you badly want everything to work out well. It is like a dream, and you don’t want that dream to end in a negative way. Thankfully it all turned out very well for me at Ajax.
How proud were you to wear the historic Ajax number nine shirt?
It is true that many great players have worn that number nine, but for me it was not about the number. What counted most was wearing the Ajax shirt. I had always been an Ajax fan, I had always looked out for them on TV, my whole family were Ajax fans too. It was just great to play for them.
And under Marco Van Basten too…
Yes, back then Marco Van Basten was a very young coach so he spent most of his time with the whole group. Unfortunately, us strikers rarely had the opportunity to work alone with him. What he really taught me was how to be critical towards myself and the need to do everything properly in order to achieve my goals. Without that attitude it’s impossible to succeed.
Were these your happiest days?
At that point, yes, for sure, but I have loved every single step of my career and every club I have played for. I always tried to do my very best to develop and make the next step. I’ve tried to approach all experiences with that same attitude. However, back to the question: I must admit representing Ajax was something very special for me.
Huntelaar’s position in Oranje was never really firm. He did play a number of games as a striker and scored a good number of goals, but it always seems as if he just wasn’t seen as good enough. This curse has been around Oranje since one Johan Cruyff was the central striker and everyone wearing the orange number 9 seems to be compared to JC or Marco van Basten. Even Ruud van Nistelrooy had criticasters talking about his lack of technical skills!! Players like Kees Kist, Peter Houtman, John Bosman, Hans Gillhaus, Roy Makaay, Wim Kieft, Floyd Hasselbaink… They all suffered from this….
Hunter missed the Asian trip this last summer. The 30 year old was allowed a break. “The coach told me he wanted to try out some other lads and would most likely not need me. I was a little annoyed at first, but realised I could actually use the break. So I saw it as a holiday gift. It’s been a while since I had a good summer break, so it was actually great.”
Huntelaar doesn’t seem to have a grudge, being Oranje’s substitute striker behind Van Persie. “Playing in Oranje is always a bonus. It’s always fun to be together and to play football.”
Klaasjan started well, scoring a brace for Schalke vs HSV but has been sidelined with an injury. He hopes and expects to be ready when the CL starts.
Asked about his expectations with Oranje, he says: “I can’t have any expectations yet. I need to get fit, and play well. Which in my case means: score goals. I expect to be part of the squad if I do this and once I’m part of it, I will probably hear from the coach what my role will be. I know Van Gaal well enough to know he will be straight and honest about it. I think I still have a lot to offer and I hope the coach will see this too.”
His time at Milan and Madrid was not great but at Arsenal he was really invisible….