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'Madrid need you or they don't' - Huntelaar reflects on playing for Champions League holders

11:52 AM WAT 12/02/2019
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Ajax 2018-19
The Ajax striker is preparing to face his former club, with the Dutch team hoping to spring a surprise on Santiago Solari's side

Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar says that he has pleasant recollections of his time at Real Madrid – but that he has no real attachment to a team with a large turnover of personnel and players.

The Netherlands international’s club face Santiago Solari’s side in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie on Wednesday, with the Eredivisie outfit looking to spring a surprise on the holders.

Huntelaar spent the latter half of the 2008-09 season with Madrid following a mid-campaign switch from Ajax, before moving on to AC Milan and the 35-year-old has spoken of his spell in La Liga ahead of their European crunch clash, addressing the lustre and attraction of Los Blancos.

“Real is a beautiful club,” the former Schalke man 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.”

With Ajax underdogs to prevail, Huntelaar insists that the club can upset the odds and write a legacy of their own with a win over Madrid.

“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.”

Ajax host Madrid at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday.