A tally of 200 club goals in 468 matches and 40 strikes in 79 Netherlands caps proves Patrick Kluivert knows plenty about the art of finishing.
As a teenager, he smashed in 18 times during 25 matches in his startling debut Eredivisie campaign as Ajax claimed the 1994/95 top-flight title without losing a match. This prodigious eye for goal would go down in folklore that May when he came off the substitutes’ bench to net the winner against AC Milan in the Champions League final.
Senses dulled during one disappointing season with the Rossoneri in 1997/98 would come startlingly back to life at Barcelona. From 1998-2004, the imposing Kluivert used his mixture of technical prowess and physical gifts to terrorise defences across the globe.
Speaking to Sport360° at a La Liga event in Dubai, the now 42-year-old provided a rare insight into what it takes to thrive up front at the highest echelons of the sport.
He says: “It 70-per-cent natural, and then there is a little bit in the last 30 per cent that you can learn.
“The way you walk, the way you ask for the ball, there are things you can speak about with your fellow colleagues.”
For the Oranje, Kluivert was their all-time top scorer from 2003-13 until overtaken by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie. His five-goal tally – partly – on home soil at Euro 2000 was enough to earn the Golden Boot.
The Amsterdam-native possessed talent in abundance. Few players with a 6ft2in frame could move with his grace and speed.
He could either beat a defender with a quick-fire step over, or simply dominate them in the air.
From a trademark bullet header to level late on in World Cup 1998’s epic semi-final, eventually lost on penalties against Brazil, to a nonchalant back-heeled finish in a one-on-one against Mallorca, Kluivert had it all.
This prowess earned an exalted reputation which has followed him ever since spells at Newcastle United, Valencia, PSV Eindhoven and Lille presaged the iconic striker’s retirement in 2008.
What are the attributes of a master finisher?
“If you can score goals, on and off, it doesn’t matter what happens in the game,” the current Cameroon assistant replies. “All you do is finish it.”
In Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, the modern game boasts arguably the sport’s greatest-ever finishers.
Also at Camp Nou, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez continues to rattle in goals. Elsewhere, Poland’s Robert Lewandowski cannot stop netting.
But when asked to name the sport’s current greatest marksman, Kluivert selects a 20-year-old Paris Saint-Germain starlet and World Cup 2018 winner with France
“Kylian Mbappe,” is his answer.
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