In front of the Philips Stadion stands a three-metre statue of Willy van der Kuijlen. In the history of great Dutch strikers Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten may be better known, but neither scored as many Eredivisie goals as the PSV legend, whose image is emblazoned in bronze outside the club that made his name.
'Eager to learn'
Van der Kuijlen scored 311 goals in 539 Eredivisie matches; all but three of them came during a 17-year career with PSV between 1964 and 1981. If you want to learn about the art of scoring, the striker known as Mister PSV is the man to meet. Van der Kuijlen is still connected with the club. He works as a scout now, but was a youth coach when a certain Klaas Jan Huntelaar arrived at PSV in the summer of 2000 at the age of 15. "It was actually easy, as he knew what he wanted and was eager to learn," Van der Kuijlen told uefa.com. "He worked on his weaker points himself for half an hour during training and then again afterwards for another 45 minutes. It was lovely working with him."
Now at AFC Ajax, Huntelaar's rise has been spectacular. The 22-year-old has already scored 15 times in as many games for his new club following his €9m transfer from SC Heerenveen and added another on his UEFA Champions League debut last month. Huntelaar has praised Van der Kuijlen for the work they did together, which is paying dividends for the Amsterdam club. "
We worked particularly on his shooting technique, to help him decide very quickly between receiving the ball and shooting at goal, to make that as instinctive as possible. We worked on that constantly. We worked with pressure as well, such as when he received the ball with a defender close behind him, to force him to decide what to do very quickly. He picked it up perfectly."
Huntelaar would play just once for PSV, without scoring, before being loaned out to De Graafschap in 2002. The following season he was transferred to AGOVV Apeldoorn, since when Van der Kuijlen has had to follow his progress from afar. "It was a pity, but at a certain point a player makes his own decision about his future and where he goes. I felt that at that moment he thought he wouldn't get any chances at PSV because he had two other good strikers [Mateja Kežman and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink] ahead of him. We still follow his development very closely. He is an intelligent lad who knows what he is talking about and doesn't make stupid remarks on television. That's a very good sign. He was already like that when he came to us. In my opinion at that time he had already planned out how the rest of his career would go. He has always acted by that, and made his choices. They have not always been in favour of PSV, but you have to respect that."
Huntelaar has made all the right choices so far. A hatful of goals for Apeldoorn led to his transfer to Heerenveen where a further 34 goals in 46 games forced Ajax's hand. "Huntelaar is a striker who can be very dangerous purely in the penalty area. He is very watchful, anticipating that the defender could miss the ball. If the ball hits the post or crossbar he reacts very quickly. Very often he is in exactly the right position. Those are the qualities a good striker must have."
The nature of the modern game suggests Huntelaar will not be in the Eredivisie long enough to come close to breaking Van der Kuijlen's scoring record. He might, however, get the chance of scoring in a European final, just like Van der Kuijlen did for PSV in the 1978 UEFA Cup final. PSV drew the first leg 0-0 away to SC Bastia, then ran away with the trophy at the Philips Stadion, Van der Kuijlen adding their third and final goal. "I think it was a pass from [Jan] Poortvliet, which I controlled with my left foot, and shot at goal with my right. The ball hit the post and rebounded to me about eleven metres out and with my left foot I shot it low into the left corner."
It is something that sticks clearly in the 59-year-old's mind. "Yes, those things do, because it was one of the few times we played really well on the European level. When you score a goal like that it stays in your memory. It was the first time PSV had won a big prize. With a very good squad we put in an excellent performance.
The players that followed in our footsteps have taken care that on the European level PSV now have a very good name." As Huntelaar will attest, Van der Kuijlen has played a significant part in that success.
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