Why signing Klass doesn’t necessarily guarantee Premier League success
While Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s name has never graced the back of a shirt within English football, it’s remained a somewhat permanent fixture within our gossip columns. There aren’t many constants during the course of a transfer window, but the perennial link between the Dutchman and a whole host of English clubs, is just about as sure a bet as you can possibly place.
And with the 29-year-old seemingly unable to negotiate new terms on a contract that expires next summer with current club Schalke, a potential move to the Premier League for Huntelaar could finally become a reality.
The usual suspects in Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are reportedly queuing up to try and prize the ex-Ajax man away from the Veltins-Arena come January and given his contractual situation, any deal for Huntelaar is likely to come at a relatively bargain price.
Although while his goal scoring record has undoubtedly got many supporters foaming at the mouth for him – his all time career tally currently sits at a staggering 257 in 394 appearances – Huntelaar doesn’t come as the risk-free, ready made messiah that many would appear to make him out to be.
Make no mistake about it, if any Premier League team is lucky enough to snap up the Dutchman, they’ll be receiving a striker who is currently enjoying the very zenith of his peak footballing years. Last season saw Huntelaar knock in an outrageous 48 goals in 47 games, with 29 of them coming in the Bundesliga.
There is no need to be patient in his development or steady with blossoming expectation, either; at 29, Huntelaar comes with something of a ‘no assembly required’ pamphlet. This is a striker ready made to fit into any side and score goals.
Ex-Bayern Munich, Barcelona and current Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal, once mooted that: “In the penalty area, he [Huntelaar] is the best player in the world, bar none.” Considering some of the strikers Van Gaal has worked with in his time, that’s quite some compliment. And to some extent, it’s a sentiment that can often feel very difficult to argue against.
In terms of pure finishing ability, he’s not quite peerless, but we’re talking about only a very elite few who can boast a natural nous for goal scoring on par with Huntelaar’s. A complete striker, he is as comfortable prodding the ball in from the near post as he is from putting it in the top corner from 30 yards. At 6ft 1, his aerial ability is also a poignant factor when weighing up a move into English football. He has the complete set of striking skills.
So with all this considered, it begs the question, how could Huntelaar possibly represent anything resembling a risk?
When the Dutchman is riding high as he was during his superb term last season, it’s very easy to look at things in black and white, especially in terms of his goal scoring records. Given the speculation with the club of late, a scoot around an Arsenal forum or two offers some interesting perspective. Some have been quick to observe that Huntelaar does indeed boast a goal scoring tally that is both superior in weight, than the recently departed Robin van Persie.
Which is very true. But at nearly identical ages – only six days separate the pair’s birthdays – it is van Persie who is currently plying his trade at one of the world’s biggest clubs, looking to fight for both Premier League and European glory. Should Huntelaar leave in January, he will be joining his fourth club since leaving Ajax in 2009.
This isn’t some unknown quantity we’re talking about here. Huntelaar has had his chances at two massive clubs in Real Madrid and AC Milan, and both times, he lasted no more than one season. Some will suggest that the continued politicking and upheaval Huntelaar was exposed to at both clubs is simply a dual case of wrong place, wrong time. That may be so, but even if the Dutchman is simply a late developer, it still doesn’t necessitate his transfer devoid of risk.
At 29, this is likely to be Huntelaar’s last big contract, offering interested parties no realistic financial return on him. And even if the transfer fee is relatively minimal, his wages aren’t likely to be peanuts. A striker more in the mould of an orthodox hitman, while he’s no slouch, his game isn’t entirely focused around pace, and there’s no reason why he can’t continue to provide goals over say, a three year contract, as a result.
For some teams however, those more traditional striking gifts that he possesses, could provide a minor gripe. It’s not as if Sir Alex Ferguson – someone who has previously cast his eye, only to overlook Huntelaar – is likely to plant van Persie as a left-winger any time soon, but the ex-Arsenal man has a superior all round versatility to his game. AC Milan were certainly pushing their luck by playing an out-and-out striker on the wing, but Huntelaar doesn’t offer you much room to manoeuvre tactically.
Of course, if you invest in Klaas Jan Huntelaar and his supreme striking talents, you’re going to base your team around him and history suggests if you do that, you’ll be repaid with goals. But if we take away his amazing haul of goals in the Bundesliga last season, he’s only averaged less than 10 goals a season, since the 2007-08 term. He’s not bulletproof.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is currently one of Europe’s most in form and lethal strikers. His goal record is amongst the continent’s elite and if he really is going for anything near the region of the reported £6-9million, many will view it as a no-brainer. But while there’s every chance he may be a resounding success on these shores, it’s my no means the guarantee that many are perhaps eager to make out.