Klaas-Jan Huntelaar enjoyed a superb 2011/12 season at club level with Schalke, scoring a simply sensational 48 goals in 48 games. And this despite the Ruhr giants not picking up major silverware.
At Euro 2012, Huntelaar is one of Holland’s most dangerous attacking threats and, if he fires, the Dutch’s chances of picking up the European Championship trophy the country last won in 1988 increase dramatically.
Inside Futbol went to speak to the striker about Euro 2012, his superb season with Schalke, his views on the other stars of the tournament and the future:
Inside Futbol (IF): Klaas-Jan, you have never been a starter for Holland in big competitions. Do you expect this to change at Euro 2012?
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (KJH): To be honest, I do. I had a positive season with Schalke and I feel that I’m in top form. Two years ago in South Africa I was a reserve, now I hope to be the coach’s first choice. It is no secret that I want to play. Every footballer’s dream is to play in a big tournament like the European Championship.
IF: To be a bench-warmer after scoring 48 goals in 48 games with Schalke would be quite disappointing then, wouldn’t it?
KJH: Of course, I hope to be in Holland’s starting eleven. I played all the qualifiers, I was top scorer with 12 goals and I performed well. Why shouldn’t I be confident about starting?
IF: Maybe the presence of a certain Robin van Persie?
KJH: Me and Robin played together in the past. I was the central striker, he played as a number 10. Dennis Bergkamp recently said that good players can always play together. I agree with him. This is however the coach’s choice and not ours.
IF: In Holland there is a lot of debate about it; does this increase the pressure you feel?
KJH: When there is a team full of talented players, such as it is with Holland, there will always be much discussion. I play no attention to it, so there’s no pressure at all. I focus on training and performing. These are the only two things that can help a player to become a regular starter. Interviews and statements can’t do it.
IF: How would you describe your relationship with coach Bert van Marwijk?
KJH: Professional. I don’t like to talk about coaches. They have their job, I have mine. In my career I’ve worked with good ones and with others who weren’t so good. I have always tried to do my best and to show them my worth. Then they made their choices. That’s the same with Holland.
IF: Do you consider Holland amongst the favourites to win Euro 2012?
KJH: If we are all fit we can surely fight for the title. I don’t have any doubt about that. The first game against Denmark will be crucial for our tournament and the worst mistake we could make would be to underrate our opponents. Our group is the hardest, but this could be a positive because we will have to be at our best from the very start.
IF: Are Spain and Germany stronger than Holland?
KJH: They are at the same level. Both are top teams, it is hard to tell which is the best, football is so unpredictable. Before Euro 2004 we beat Greece easily, but that summer, who won the European Championship? Yes, the Greek team.
IF: In your opinion, who is the best current European footballer?
KJH: Mesut Ozil. Then Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The midfielders are the most important players in football because they are the engine and the brain of a team. Without creative players like them you cannot play good football. And if you don’t play good football, then it becomes more difficult to score.
IF: And which striker does Huntelaar rate as his favourite?
KJH: Cristiano Ronaldo. Beyond his superb technical skill, he always shows a strong will to win and has a never-say-die attitude. I really appreciate that.
IF: Speaking about Holland specifically, which player would you never play without?
KJH: Wesley Sneijder. He is a natural leader and the strongest player in our team. The midfielders are the vital source of our style of play and Wesley is the mastermind behind Holland.
IF: Finally, you’ve played in La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga. Will the Premier League be your next destination?
KJH: It is the best competition alongside the Bundesliga, but I won’t be thinking about my future until Euro 2012 is over. I can only say that I am very satisfied with Schalke. It is a big club, without a lot of pressure swirling around. I won’t go to a top club to be a reserve player anymore.
>> Read Holland’s Euro 2012 Team Preview.