"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."

Under the guidance of Andre Breitenreiter, Harnik and Hannover have been promoted back to the Bundesliga. © imago / Rust

With Niklas Füllkrug and Artur Sobiech vying with Harnik for a place in the Hannover attack, that is one area where the promoted side need little intervention, and Harnik says he would be happy to play on the wing, as he has done for his country, if it meant reinforcing his side's chances of scoring.

"It all depends on the system," he said. "We've always played with two strikers in Hannover, and I've been able to move freely. I've played for many years, though, sometimes with success from the wing for my country. I was never the classic winger, but I tried always tried to get into good positions and get my hard running into play."

Bundesliga defences are therefore warned. With 53 goals in 190 Bundesliga appearances already to his name, and an emphatic season in the second tier providing wind for his sails, Harnik is now ready to come of age in the Bundesliga with Hannover.

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