New Hannover 96 striker Charlison Benschop says he has always wanted to play in the Bundesliga - © © imago
New Hannover 96 striker Charlison Benschop says he has always wanted to play in the Bundesliga - © © imago

Who is... new Hannover 96 striker Charlison Benschop?

Cologne - After being outscored by no less than 12 other Bundesliga teams over the course of 2014/15, Hannover 96’s priority when the summer transfer window opened was always going to be finding a new striker.

In demand

The Reds didn’t have to look far, with Dutch forward Charlison Benschop joining the club on a three-year-deal from Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Düsseldorf on 4 June 2015.

“I spoke to sporting director Dirk Dufner and head coach Michael Frontzeck and that went really well,” the 25-year-old recalled in a recent interview with German tabloid Bild. "That gave me a great feeling - they really made an effort with me. I wanted to play in the top flight and I’m sure Hannover’s the right step.”

Benschop, who cites Ivorian goal machine Didier Drogba as his idol, scored 13 times in the league in his second campaign at Düsseldorf as die Flingeraner fell 14 points short of the promotion places. His performances even caught the eye of Curacao head coach and Dutch great Patrick Kluivert, but the 6' 3" forward admits he “still hasn’t decided” whether he should represent his country of birth or hold out for a call from his adopted homeland, the Netherlands.

Gentle giant

Either way, it is easy to see why a football mind with Kluivert’s experience would be interested in a player like Benschop. He has scored goals wherever he has played - RJ Waalwijk (19), AZ Alkmaar (eight), Stade Brest 29 (five) and Düsseldorf (25) - and presents himself as a dedicated and accommodating professional.

“I signed my first professional deal at Waalwijk [but] my first team was SCO 63 VV Spijkenisse,” he remembers with a smile. “From the start, I was always a foot taller than everyone else and played in every position except in goal. I’m happiest playing in a front two, as a nine-and-a-half, but obviously it’s down to the coach at the end of the day.”

'Every goal's for Dad'

Benschop’s attitude and application - both on and off the pitch - augur very well indeed now he has taken a step up in class and joined the high-octane ranks of the Bundesliga. He used to take three German lessons a week after moving to Düsseldorf in summer 2013 and, despite finding love with his tutor Kamila, has asked his new team-mates in Hanover to communicate auf Deutsch.

Benschop’s easy-going yet steadfast approach appears to stem from the relationship he shared with his late father, whom he lost to serious illness when he was just 10. “He passed away at 35, so in his memory I wear the No.35 shirt,” he explained. “He was a baseball fan, but football was always number one for me and he supported that. When I score, I kiss my finger and look to the skies. Every goal’s for Dad. I’ve got so much to thank him for.”