Former Real Madrid striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is looking forward to facing his former side when Ajax play the La Liga giants in the Champions League round of 16, with the first leg in Amsterdam on Wednesday – though Huntelaar says the club weren’t “royal” when he was with them.
Huntelaar spent six months in Madrid in 2009, joining the club from Ajax in the January window before departing for AC Milan in the summer.
The Dutch striker never played a European fixture for Madrid, as Los Blancos could only register one of Huntelaar and Lassana Diarra to their Champions League squads, with the French midfielder getting the nod.
Huntelaar has, however, played in the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu, scoring twice for Schalke at Madrid’s stadium in 2014.
The 35-year-old reflected on his short spell at Madrid with a hint of stoicism, recognising the opportunity he had to play for one of Europe’s biggest clubs but also that he joined at a time of upheaval.
“Real is a beautiful club,” he told De Telegraaf . “I played there 10 years ago and I spent a small part of my career in Madrid.
“Feelings? It’s more about nice memories. The Bernabeu is a fantastic stadium, probably the best stadium I have ever played [in].
“If you look up into the stands, you can see how steep it is. People are sitting so close to the pitch that you can feel their eyes burn in your back.”
The forward, however, noted that, despite the attraction, he found no real sense of prestige in playing for the club during his brief stay, adding: “I think that in my time at Real Madrid, they were not really ‘royal’.
“At a certain moment, everybody had to leave, including the coach, technical director and chairman. They don’t really bother about a million more or less.
“That’s how it works, it’s football. They need you or they don’t. I could have stayed for a couple of years, but, for me, the sporting part was the most important thing.
“In the end, I also noticed the club took a different turn, so it wasn’t very interesting for me to stay.”
“If we play like we played earlier this season in the Champions League, we can make it very difficult for Real Madrid,” he added. “But, at first hand, they are the favourites.
“We will only be satisfied if we qualify for the next round. It’s more realistic to think they will make it, but that’s not the way we think, because this is our chance to make history.”
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