As some of you may or may not have noticed; Real Madrid purchased Ajax forward, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar last week for around twenty million euros. I firmly believe Huntelaar or KJH as he is also called will be a great success at Real Madrid. I will analyse his style of play in an effort to back this claim up.
Huntelaar is not very reliant on his physique. If I were to give him marks out of ten for the various physical attributes a modern-day strikers should possess, he wouldn’t score over 7/10. Not for his pace, neither for his jumping, nor for his strength and stamina. He’s about a 6/10 or 7/10 in all aspects. It’s not his physique that makes Klaas-Jan the lethal striker he is.
People see him scoring goals with either head or feet, standing all alone, and therefore deduce he must be very fast or very strong in the air to get the amount of space he has, but it’s really not down to physique.
It’s also not his technique. Even though every professional player possesses a fair share of technical ability, some excel in this area and have superb technical skills. KJH is not one of these players. Again, I’d rate his technical abilities as 7/10.
His first touch is good and he’s got a powerful and accurate shot, but he’s not the kind of player who skips past three defenders and scores miraculous dribbling-goals.
The man can control a pass well enough and fire a deadly accurate shot at goal, which always helps when you want to score a goal, but this is called functional technique. Huntelaar cannot create his own chances based on technique, so it’s not what makes him so deadly upfront.
The reason why Klaas-Jan is a top striker, who will succeed just about anywhere, rests inside his head. His mental abilities are just phenomenal. His prowess inside the box is legendary in the Netherlands. He’s been dubbed “The Hunter” in recognition of his goal-scoring skills.
The man has almost predator like instincts, stalking a defence until it slips up and pouncing on every opportunity. He’s what the British would call a fox-in-the-box, the sort of striker who plies his trade based on intelligence and plies it well, scoring many goals.
KJH has the ability to remain patient and focused throughout a match. He knows a defence will slip up once during ninety minutes and when they do, he’ll be ready for it, ready to punish the defence for their moment of weakness.
When looking at Huntelaar's goal-scoring record, one has to admit he boasts an impressive record. In 35 games for AGOVV Apeldoorn in the Dutch Jupiler League, he bagged 26 goals. In 46 games for SC Heerenveen, he scored 34 goals and he succeeded at the very top of Dutch football by scoring 79 goals in 97 games for Amsterdam-based giants Ajax.
Critics will point out that it’s not that difficult to score many goals in the Dutch league. Top poachers in the Dutch league will not necessarily succeed in bigger league. People often refer to Serbian striker Mateja Kezman. This Serbian striker impressed at PSV, scoring many a-goal, but failed to leave a lasting impression at Chelsea.
I’d like to reply by pointing out Huntelaar’s excellent goal-scoring record in international games. The man has played 18 senior international games and scored 10 goals, which is a pretty impressive tally by today’s standards. He hasn’t played a lot of international games, because at the time Ruud van Nistelrooy was deemed a better striker.
Whilst RvN was hogging the central striker spot in the national team, KJH did play for the national U21s. In 22 games, he bagged 18 goals there, winning the 2006 U21 European Championships with the Dutch U21 side. He proved a natural-born goal-scorer in matches against some of Europe’s finest young prospects, so he has shown his talent on the highest level.
If I could name one weakness in his game, it’s not even one he can be held accountable for. He’s relying on service. Huntelaar is not the kind of striker to create his own chances, like say Zlatan Ibrahimovic. KJH needs that good cross or brilliant through-ball to score his goals, so when his team-mates don’t deliver, neither can he.
This is why he hasn’t really scored a lot of goals in the UEFA Cup or Champions League. Heerenveen and Ajax were generally not good enough to act on this level, so Huntelaar was generally left all alone upfront to sort things out. That’s not his cup of tea, so he’s much easier contained that way.
Fortunately, he’s got some of the world’s finest players around him at Real, so he’s pretty much guaranteed better service. With his Dutch international comrades Rafael van der Vaart, Arjen Robben, and Wesley Sneijder also donning the colours of Les Merengues, he’s even ensured of at least three players who know exactly how he wants the ball played towards him.
Looking at all these factors, I can only conclude that Huntelaar, if he does not suffer any serious injuries and is given time to adjust to the Spanish life-style, will become a big hit for Real Madrid and will soon help the fans forget their sorrow over losing Van Nistelrooy.