Klaas-Jan Huntelaar shone intermittently during his time at Real Madrid CF, but the Dutchman all but stole the show on his latest return to the Spanish capital.
Article top media content
In the list of Real Madrid CF's all-time striking greats, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar barely warrants a mention. The Dutchman joined the Merengues from AFC Ajax in January 2009, but his spell in the Spanish capital was short-lived. He scored eight goals in 20 league games in a six-month spell which ended somewhat ignominiously with a sending off against CA Osasuna on the final day of the 2008/09 campaign. Madrid brought in Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema that summer, while Huntelaar left for AC Milan.
Yet, as his Real Madrid record shows, the 31-year-old is a natural goalscorer, and he reminded his old club of that on Tuesday, striking twice as FC Schalke 04 won 4-3 at the Santiago Bernabéu and came within a goal of eliminating the UEFA Champions League holders.
Knowing goals were the order of the day as Schalke looked to become the first team to overturn a two-goal home deficit in the UEFA Champions League era, Huntelaar put in a man-of-the-match display, playing a part in three of Schalke's goals, as well as hitting the woodwork with a spectacular long-range volley in the first half.
"It was a great team performance," he told UEFA.com. "We are happy with a good game and good result. I'm happy with the way I played today personally; with the goals, but most importantly with the win."
After allowing the ball to run for Christian Fuchs to open the scoring after 20 minutes, Huntelaar put his side ahead on the night for a second time following Ronaldo's equaliser after Iker Casillas spilled Max Meyer's shot into his path.
The Portuguese produced another swift riposte on the stroke of half-time as he became the all-time leading scorer in UEFA club competitions, and it appeared Benzema had put the tie to bed with a finish seven minutes after the break. However, a superb effort from debutant Leroy Sané was followed by Huntelaar's second of the game after an incisive counterattack with five minutes remaining, firing the ball in off the underside of Casillas's crossbard from the edge of the box.
For the next six minutes, Madrid nerves were jangling as Schalke pushed for the goal that would have turned a famous victory into a legendary one. Huntelaar was a touch deflated after his side failed to land the killer blow. "We had some chances at the end," he said. "We saw that they were a little bit insecure and tried to take advantage of that, and it's a little bit disappointing it didn't happen."
Some consolation: that 4-3 defeat ended Madrid's ten-game UEFA Champions League winning streak, and ended a 21-game unbeaten home run in the competition, stretching back to April 2011. Cristiano Ronaldo broke perhaps the most significant scoring record in Europe against the Royal Blues; however, in his moment of glory, Huntelaar almost upstaged him.