Klaas Jan Huntelaar is already looking forward to winning "as many trophies as possible" next season after helping the Netherlands to U21 glory.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar is already looking forward to winning "as many trophies as possible" next season after crowning a majestic personal campaign with a match-winning performance in the final of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Huntelaar scored twice - the first one "magnificent" according to coach Foppe de Haan - before Nicky Hofs added a third in stoppage time as the Netherlands sealed a first title at this level by seeing off Ukraine 3-0 in Porto. The 22-year-old's second, a penalty, saw him overtake Thomas Kahlenberg as the competition's most prolific scorer and provided him with a commendable double after his ten goals also saw him top the charts in qualifying.
Having left SC Heerenveen for AFC Ajax in a €9m winter transfer, Huntelaar finished as the Eredivisie's 33-goal leading marksman and also collected a Dutch Cup winners' medal after getting both goals in the final defeat of PSV Eindhoven. Last night's triumph eclipses both those honours, however, as it is the Netherlands' first trophy at any level since they ruled Europe in 1988. "This is a great feeling," Huntelaar said as he collected his man-of-the match award.
"It's been an amazing season but it comes to an end now as we're all off on holiday," continued the forward. "Then another one starts and I want to win as many prizes as possible. It's been a great experience here because we've grown as a team during the tournament after making a bad start. We played well in the first half, were comfortable at the back and pushed the ball forward at the right time from midfield.
"We had the majority of the ball in that half and created chances but the second half was more difficult because Ukraine were 2-0 down and needed to chase the game. We had a little bit of difficulty dealing with them but held on. Personally, my first-half performance was good but I was a bit more isolated in the second as there was too much space between the midfield and forwards."
De Haan, who worked with Huntelaar during his formative years at Heerenveen, said of the striker's displays in Portugal: "He didn't start too well - I should say bad really - but during this tournament he has been growing by the game. Against Italy he didn't score but he worked hard and was good on the ball, you could tell the feeling was coming. Then, against France in the semi-final, he was very good."
'Very good mentality'
The coach concluded: "I don't just mean for his goals but for his work for the team, as he knew when the defence needed help. In the first half of the final he was very good, although in the second it was like he was marooned on an island. Klaas has a very good mentality, is good on the ball, is not real fast but when he has the ball near the area he has a remarkable feeling for where the goal is - when most players shoot over he always hits the target which is very important."