FC Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's decision to extend his stay in Gelsenkirchen should bring stability to the side
FC Schalke 04 striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's decision to extend his stay in Gelsenkirchen should bring stability to the side

Huntelaar leading Schalke out of the rough

Munich - Change is in the air at FC Schalke 04, but one man committed to the club through thick and thin is striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Royal Blue plight

"I want to send out a positive signal now because I believe in our team and I believe we can still achieve a great deal in the second half of the Bundesliga season," said the Dutchman after recently putting pen to paper on a new, extended deal.

Tying the dangerous Dutchman to a new contract could turn out to be a huge coup for the Royal Blues, who will now be hoping the striker's decision to stick around in Gelsenkirchen has a galvanising effect following some uncertain times at the club.

A Matchday 11 win against Werder Bremen had the Royal Blues second in the Bundesliga, but it's been downhill ever since, with now seventh-placed Schalke's over-reliance on Jefferson Farfan and Ibrahim Afellay exposed and Dutch coach Huub Stevens shown the door.

Signal of intent

Downhill until Huntelaar's contract renewal, that is - and while midfielder Lewis Holtby has subsequently opted against extending his deal beyond summer 2013, the general feeling is that Schalke, Huntelaar to the fore, are now out of the rough.

As if to illustrate the point, 23-year-old Marco Höger has followed Huntelaar's lead, having just extended his contract with the club until 2016. "I feel really happy at Schalke and I'm delighted to continue being a part of this great club over the next few years," said the midfielder.

'The Hunter'

So just where does that leave the club ahead of their Bundesliga restart against Hannover 96 on January 18? Injuries to Afellay and Christoph Moritz haven't helped new coach Jens Keller’s winter training schedule in Doha, but of most importance is getting the Schalke players believing again. After all, making a record-breaking start to 2012/13 was no fluke for a side only three months ago dubbed genuine contenders to the Bundesliga throne.

If the Royal Blues are to get back in the top-four equation, the performances of a certain Dutch target man will be key. Like Schalke, Huntelaar has much to prove after scoring, by his standards, a mediocre five league goals so far this season; but this is not your ordinary striker. This is a man who last season broke Hermann Eppenhoff's club record for the most competitive goals in a season with an impressive haul of 48. This is 'the Hunter'.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge