Gelsenkirchen - Despite missing the majority of the first half the season, FC Schalke 04’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar still managed to end the 2013/14 campaign as the Royal Blues’ leading goalscorer, as his 12 goals fired them to a third-placed finish for the seventh time in the .
However, the 30-year-old still believes that both the established stars, as well as the up-and-coming youngsters, are yet to reach the peak of their combined powers. “When you're satisfied with something, you end up standing still,” said Huntelaar in an interview with schalke04.de. “With the potential we have, there's so much we can achieve.”
The Dutchman hit the ground running with a two-goal salvo in Schalke’s first game of the season. However, his campaign was brought to a standstill by a knee ligament injury in the following league encounter, which forced him to watch on from the sidelines until after the winter break. “It's a strange feeling, and quite irritating,” explained the veteran. “I can influence things when I'm on the pitch, but when you're looking on, you've no control whatsoever. That's not my thing at all.”
After making his return to first-team affairs on Matchday 18, the striker went on to net ten goals in 16 Rückrunde appearances, leaving some to wonder what may have been had he not been waylaid by injury. “Of course, we'd have been champions of Germany now – ten points clear of Bayern,” joked the Bronckhorst-native. “No, that's daft, the upswing in the second half of the season was down to the togetherness of the team, but we still have plenty of room for improvement.”
Huntelaar: “At the service of the team”
Even when side-lined Huntelaar’s presence was felt and in light of Raul’s departure in 2012, the 2011/12 Bundesliga top goalscorer has proven more than willing to step up as a leader amongst the Royal Blues’ young guns. “I always try to put myself totally at the service of the team, especially when things aren't going so well,” explained the club’s vice-captain, who is not alone in being excited about what the likes of Kaan Ayhan, Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer will be able to achieve in their careers.
However, the experienced Dutch international knows all too well that, in such situations, it’s crucial that the more experienced players carry the weight of expectation. “The most important thing for their development is to give them the assurance that they can express themselves fully on the pitch and are allowed to make mistakes,” said Huntelaar. “You shouldn't talk to them too much or give them instructions all the time, though, because otherwise the lads will think too much about things – that's not good.”
Beach holiday in Brazil?
With the Bundesliga campaign now over and momentum on his side, Schalke’s star striker is turning his attention to Brazil in the hopes he can book his place in the Dutch national side. “I'm really up for the World Cup now and I'll be giving my all for my country if I go to Brazil,” said powerful target man. “The challenges posed by top matches such as the one against Spain in the group stage are a real incentive for me.”
Competition for places is fierce amongst former FC Bayern München head coach Louis van Gaal’s provisional squad. However, even if his purple patch at the end of the current campaign wasn’t enough to swing a spot his way, Huntelaar is still looking forward to a summer holiday. “I'll simply use the time to switch off at home. I need that to get my mind clear again - for the coming tasks at Schalke.”