Like a fine wine, Martin Harnik says he is getting better with age, and is about to hit vintage. - © © gettyimages / Stuart Franklin/Bongarts
Like a fine wine, Martin Harnik says he is getting better with age, and is about to hit vintage. - © © gettyimages / Stuart Franklin/Bongarts
Bundesliga

Ageing like Cristiano Ronaldo? Hannover’s Martin Harnik hopes so!

"Cristiano Ronaldo said it best after the UEFA Champions League final - age is just a number." Those the words of Martin Harnik, the Hannover forward who, with 17 goals in 2016/17, helped ensure that the Reds' stay in Bundesliga 2 did not last longer than one campaign.

The Austria forward turns 30 on Saturday, the day before he is set to pick up his 66th cap, in a FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland. That game will officially bring the curtain down on his season, allowing him to take a well-earned break before returning - back where he belongs - to the Bundesliga.

"It was really an interesting year," said the 29-year-old. "It was only the second time I had played in Bundesliga 2, but of course it was under completely different circumstances to what I had with Fortuna Düsseldorf, where I was still a youngster. That was a difficult season, but we stood up and earned our place in the end."

Watch: Hannover's top ten goals in 2016/17

He may no longer be considered a youngster – it is now ten years since Harnik was part of the Austria youth team who finished fourth at the Under-20 World Cup in Canada, earning that generation cult status in Austria – but with Ronaldo's words ringing in his ears, he does not feel old either. "I don't yet feel like I'm the finished article," he said. "I have a lot of experience, though, and I think my team-mates can profit from that."

Especially since Hannover, at least according to Harnik, are no ordinary promoted team.

"I think we are just like Stuttgart because we simply belong in the top flight," he said. "It's not like Ingolstadt or Darmstadt breaking new ground. I believe that we can have a very good first season back. There is a sense of euphoria and some things are being improved in certain positions. Players are being brought in to provide competition and to push for a stable season."

- © imago / Rust