As Klaas-Jan Huntelaar considers his finals years of playing at the top level, a potential last chance to make it at one of Europe’s biggest clubs will enter his head.
The Netherlands international has shown over the years that he is a lethal finisher when given an opportunity, but was not adjudged as the man to lead the line for AC Milan or Real Madrid during short spells at each club.
Now with his Schalke contract expiring in 2015, the 30-year-old has one last chance to potentially sign for a club chasing silverware once more and make up for disappointing periods at the Stadio San Siro and Estadio Santiago Bernabéu.
A graduate of PSV Eindhoven’s youth academy, the centre forward did not get a chance in Philips Stadion first team. After loan spells elsewhere, it was at Heerenveen that Huntelaar first really caught the eye.
The hitman struck 33 goals in 46 Eredivisie games, prompting Dutch powerhouses Ajax to splurge €9 million on his signature. It was a move that paid dividends – with Huntelaar netting an incredible 76 goals in 92 appearances for the Amsterdam club.
Huntelaar’s final season with Ajax saw the striker score 34 goals in as many games, with some of Europe’s top clubs vying for his signature. Real Madrid won the race, with the Dutch attacker seemingly set to become one of the best centre forwards in the world.
However, Huntelaar was only given half a season and a mere 20 appearances in the Spanish capital before he was deemed surplus to requirements and offloaded to AC Milan.
Again this proved to be a false dawn however, with the striker not showcasing the devastating strike rate in Italy that had made him a phenomenon in Holland. A solitary season heralded only seven goals and prompted the Rossoneri to sell Huntelaar to Schalke in 2010.
Although suffering serious injury at the Gelsenkirchen, when Huntelaar has been fit and firing he has shown that he is one of Europe’s deadliest marksmen. The 2011-12 campaign saw the Dutch forward net 29 Bundesliga goals as the division’s top goalscorer, with Huntelaar also recording important strikes in the Champions League over the years.
After a return from injury this term, Huntelaar has wasted no time in showcasing his predatory nature once more, scoring 11 goals in 15 games for Jens Keller’s men.
Ahead of this summer’s World Cup, Huntelaar looks to be in fine form and there is a case to suggest that he should lead the line for the Netherlands ahead of Robin van Persie.
An international record of better than a goal every two games is complemented by the same statistic over four years in the Bundesliga.
With Huntelaar out of contract in 2015, if he opts not to extend his current deal Schalke may well consider cashing in on the star rather than losing him for free 12 months later.
Leading clubs in England and across the continent really should be keeping a close eye on his situation, with a proven goalscorer potentially available at a cut price.
The manner in which Huntelaar was offloaded in Madrid and Milan will be a source of frustration for the player and there is certainly a feeling that he was not given a fair chance to excel at either.
However, back to close to his best currently, it could well be third time lucky at one of Europe’s biggest clubs for Huntelaar if he does not sign a new Schalke contract.