Klaas-Jan Huntelaar: Schalke's master huntsman
Schalke striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar revealed in April he is likely to leave the Royal Blues when his contract expires at the end of the season.
bundesliga.com reflects on the Dutchman's seven years in Gelsenkirchen.
When he arrived in Germany following a deadline-day switch from AC Milan on August 31, 2010, Huntelaar may well have felt he had a point to prove.
A prolific goalscorer with Heerenveen and Ajax in his homeland, the then-27-year-old had just spent 18 frustrating months at two of Europe's biggest clubs. With Raul, Gonzalo Higuain and compatriot Ruud Van Nistelrooy for competition, he managed eight goals for Real Madrid after joining for the second half of the 2008/2009 season.
The following year Huntelaar was in and out of the team at Milan and left Italy having scored just seven times in Serie A. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's arrival prompted his departure, and Schalke spent around €13 million to reunite him with Spanish forward Raul, who had also joined that summer.
The move made sense for both parties. Felix Magath, who had watched Bayern snatch the title from his side the previous season, knew that he was getting a player that had scored over 100 goals in four seasons at Ajax. His new signing was a Dutch international in the prime of his career, someone Louis Van Gaal had once described as the "best player in the world, bar none" in the penalty area.
Schalke had a mixed campaign in his debut season at the VELTINS Arena. The Royal Blues finished 14th in the league after Magath was replaced by Ralf Rangnick in March 2011. Huntelaar got eight goals in 24 league matches – the first of them coming in a Revierderby defeat against local rivals Borussia Dortmund.
But with Manuel Neuer as their goalkeeper, they also enjoyed a memorable run to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Their new frontman rattled the net three times along the way before they ran out of luck against Manchester United – but they would not finish the season without silverware.
After Raul got the winner in the last four against Bayern Munich, Huntelaar struck twice in the DFB Cup final as Schalke swept aside second tier Duisburg with a 5-0 win. It was the first time in nine years his new team had won a trophy.
The following season was even more spectacular for the man nicknamed 'The Hunter'. His partnership with Raul in attack was potent as they combined for 44 league goals - with Huntelaar scoring 29 in 32 matches to become the first Dutchman ever to be crowned the Bundesliga's top goalscorer.
That helped Schalke finish third in the Bundesliga and they had another excellent season in Europe. Their lethal forward bagged 14 goals in 12 Europa League games before they fell to Valencia in the quarter-finals. Forty-eight goals in 48 matches in all competitions? Few players in the world could match that strike rate.
Managers came and went at Schalke, but Huntelaar remained a constant - netting 21 league goals over the following two seasons. He was still a threat in Europe as well - two of his five Champions League goals in the 2014/2015 campaign came in an ultimately insufficient 4-3 second leg win over Real at the Bernabeu.
Now 33, another bad knee ligament injury limited Huntelaar's impact during his seventh season in Gelsenkirchen. Declaring himself "happy to do my job" after scoring an equaliser against RB Leipzig in April, he was less enthused about having to watch games from the bench.
Watch: Highlights of Schalke's 1-1 draw with Leipzig
"My next move will be a gut decision. I really like playing football, but I have four kids and there are so many fun things to do," he told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in April.
"I am still motivated and I know I can still deliver at the highest level... there is a good chance I will continue to live in the Netherlands. I am not moving to some club in the desert, China or Turkey."
On hearing the news that his team mate could be leaving, Max Meyer spoke of the "incredible" number of times Huntelaar had netted for Schalke.
"I don't want to know where the club would be now if he had not got these goals," Meyer told Der Westen.
Aware that he has scored well over 130 goals in all competitions for the Royal Blues, Bundesliga defenders will breathe a collective sigh of relief once The Hunter is moving on to new prey.
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