Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (€27 million) (18/20)

For a forward hailing from the Netherlands – where teams play fluid, total voetbal – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is quite limited in his abilities. Not a particularly good passer or an intelligent reader of the game, Dirk Jan Klaas Huntelaar is a specialist in one thing: scoring. Over a career spanning nearly 15 seasons, Huntelaar has in fact seen the net bulge thanks to his shot no less than 312 times, including 106 times for Ajax. He may never have been considered an absolutely world class striker, but The Hunter is surely a member of the long list of historically great Dutch strikers.

Huntelaar’s career began in the youth ranks of De Graafschap –a quaint yet defiant club situated in the province of Gelderland, near the German border. After impressing the scouts of PSV, he signed for the Eindhoven giants at the turn of the century. Loan spells back at De Graafschap and at AGOVV proved pivotal to Huntelaar’s development, but upon return to PSV he was deemed surplus to requirements; he was sold to SC Heerenveen. In his season-and-a-half in the Friesland, he scored 39 goals in 60 appearances. The big clubs were, understandably, after his signature. In January 2006, Klaas-Jan was sold to Ajax Amsterdam for €9 million.

Huntelaar picked up right where he left off at his new Amsterdam home with sixteen goals in as many league appearances for Ajax to finish the 2005/06 season. The most spectacular of his achievements wasn’t in the league, though. With Ajax down 1-0 to Roda JC in the KNVB Cup Semi-final, Huntelaar performed an acrobatic bicycle kick strike that saw the ball carry over the goalkeeper and into the net – in added time. It was a moment that not only announced him as a top striker on the European stage, but one that proved he had the confidence to become elite.

The next season, Huntelaar tore apart the Eredivisie with 33 goals in 34 appearances – the first time anyone scored over 30 in the league since Marco van Basten 21 years prior. He finally got his big move in January 2009, when Real Madrid signed the superstar for €27m. However, The Hunter’s stint in the Spanish capital didn’t last long – he was forced out to Milan only six months later.

Huntelaar wasn’t quite given as many chances as you’d expect in Milan and was subsequently sold the next summer to Schakle 04. The West German club became his true home. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spent the next seven years in Gelsenkirchen, tallying a superb 126 goals in 240 appearances for Schakle in all competitions spanning nearly three-quarters of a decade. However, at 33-years-old – having spent his prime years dominating the Bundesliga and delivering in the Champions League – Huntelaar returned home to Ajax.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar may not be the best striker to ever line up for AFC Ajax, nor the most successful for the Dutch national team, but he has left a lasting impression among fans across Europe. A true professional and a symbol of perseverance in the face of defeat, he will be remembered as one of the most prolific strikers of the century’s début decade. As they say – form is temporary, but Klaas is permanent.

Written by Alex Dieker

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Crossbar Post, as well as a writer for AjaxDaily and lover of all things Ajax!