The transfer window is well and truly shut but Bayern Munich and Schalke are nevertheless set to make their most important signings of the year.
Bayern’s Mario Gomez and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar of Schalke have resurrected their careers in spectacular fashion, to the extent that if either goal machine decides not to extend his contract, they will arguably be Europe’s two most sought-after striker this summer.
Gomez, with 22 goals, and Dutchman Huntelaar, with 20, are having a battle for the honour of being the Bundesliga’s top scorer, while their European exploits (Gomez has 10 goals, Huntelaar 13) mean the duo are on everyone’s radar. Their stats are remarkably similar (see box below).
All the more remarkable given that both players were written off as scorers at the top level.
Bayern made Gomez the Bundesliga’s most expensive ever player when they shelled out 32 million euros for the burly striker in 2009. But after eight months without a goal, and a failed attempt to shift Gomez to Liverpool, the former Stuttgart player’s career was in the doldrums.
A crafty hat-trick against Hannover in October 2010 was the catalyst for a goalscoring run of epic proportions. This season Gomez stands proudly between messieurs Messi and Ronaldo at the top of the Champions League goalscoring charts.
With his contract up in 2013, Gomez’s goalscoring run could not have come at a better time, and he is set to ink a 10 million euro a year wage deal that puts him in the same bracket as Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery.
His agent this week hinted a deal was near.
“Mario is enjoying his spell at Bayern Munich and he likes the city. We have therefore not been looking at any other options at any other club,” said Uli Ferber
With 22 Bundesliga goals this season, it is easy to forget what a miserable time Gomez had when he arrived in Munich. Then coach Louis van Gaal never hid his opposition to the acquisition of Gomez, instigated by his Bayern bosses Uli Hoeness and Christian Nerlinger, rarely missing out on a chance to freeze out the big striker.
Van Gaal once described Huntelaar as ”the best player in the penalty box in the world” so would perhaps have preferred his countryman in Bayern’s star-studded squad.
But Schalke took the gamble in the summer of 2010, splashing out 12 million euros to end an ill-fated spell at AC Milan.
After a prolific spell at Ajax, Huntelaar’s 20 million euro move to Real Madrid was a flop and the 15 million euros paid by Milan only six months later looked a strange investment. First, Huntelaar rarely got a chance to play, second when he did play it was often out of position, and third because the Italians soon bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Though former Schalke coach Felix Magath is persona non grata at Gelsenkirchen these days, no one doubts his wisdom in buying the Dutchman, whose 38 goals in 37 appearances in all competitions this season represent a club record.
Huntelaar’s deal is also up in 2013, and Schalke are ready to break the bank (and offload players such as Jose Manuel Jurado) to fund an 8 million euro a year deal, making him the best paid player in the club’s 107-year history.
In the meantime the praise keeps raining in.
“He looks like he was cloned from Marco van Basten. The way he moves, shoots with both legs and his powerful headers, all reminds me of Van Basten,” said the legendary Bernd Schuster, no doubt still annoyed that Huntelaar arrived at Real Madrid a month after he walked out on the Spanish giants.
Teammate Lewis Holtby’s praise is original, if bizarre.
“You could behead him and he would still score goals. I knew the Dutch knew the holes in their cheeses but Klaas finds every hole in the opposition defence.”
While Holtby can imagine Huntelaar without a head, General Manager Horst Heldt’s imagination is even more vivid
”We will not tie Huntelaar to the negotiation table and torture him. However, he knows that we really value him here.If we want quality, then we must push ourselves to the limit.”
The intensely private Dutchman won’t need to be pressured. Critically, Huntelaar can still live and send his children to school in his home town of Angerlo, a mere 100 kilometers from Gelsenkirchen.
If Huntelaar has any doubts about staying he should perhaps heed the advice of former Schalke striker and Dutch international Youri Mulder.
“Perhaps he dreams of playing in England, but Schalke are the right club for him. At Schalke he can show exactly what makes him strong. Sitting in the box, like a predator lurking at the chance to create a goal from nothing. In the penalty box, he is one of the best. But at an absolute top club, something else is expected of a striker: a lot of running, and sprinting. Huntelaar, on the other hand, is lacking some speed. The fact is that he failed at Real Madrid and AC Milan; at Schalke, he made it. After his adventures in Spain and Italy, he should appreciate what Schalke have done for him.”
Career Bundesliga goals: 123 in 207 games
2011-12 in detail:
Bundesliga goals : 22 goals in 25 games
Right foot: 11
Left foot: 5
Shots on target: 40
Shots off target: 17
Pass completion: 80 percent
European competition this season: 10 goals in 7 matches
Career Bundesliga goals: 28 in 48 games
2011-12 in detail
Bundesliga goals: 20 in 24 games
Left foot: 4
Shots on target: 40
Shots off target:11
Pass comletion: 78 percent
European competition this season: 13 in 10 games.
For more Bundesliga blogs log on to http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/the-ballacks/
This weekend’s Bundesliga action on Eurosport2 gets underway Friday with Wolfsburg v Hamburg. The action continues on Saturday with Bayern Munich v Hannover (15:30 CET) and Huntelaar’s Schalke v Leverkusen (18:30). Then on Sunday we have two live matches: Stuttgart v Nurenberg and Cologne v Dortmund.
Highlights of all matches at 19:30 on Sunday. Coverage in North and East Europe.