'He's infected by the Schalke virus' - Gross wants Huntelaar for relegation fight

Schalke coach Christian Gross is hoping veteran Ajax striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar can be persuaded to return on loan to help the Royal Blues fight relegation from the Bundesliga.

"If a player with this experience, aura and personality were to join us again, that would be fantastic," said Gross in the build-up to Sunday's league game at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Huntelaar, 37, helped Schalke reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2010/11 and was the Bundesliga's top-scorer in 2011/12, with 29 goals in 34 league games.

After numerous phone calls between the pair, Gross says Huntelaar has "very, very good memories" of Schalke for whom he scored 126 goals in seven years before rejoining Ajax in 2017.

Huntelaar is still banging in the goals, having netted 53 times in 121 since games for Ajax since 2017, though he has mostly been a substitute this season.

However, the striker admits to reservations about returning to Gelsenkirchen.

"It's a difficult decision. Schalke and Ajax are the clubs I'm most connected to," Huntelaar told Dutch TV after scoring twice for Ajax in a 3-1 win at Twente Enschede on Thursday.

"I've told Schalke that I would discuss this with Ajax, then decide."

Huntelaar had planned to retire at the end of the season, but Gross wants him back to boost the Schalke squad.

"He is infected by this Schalke virus," quipped the Swiss.

Teenage US striker Matthew Hoppe scored a hat-trick in last Saturday's 4-0 thumping of Hoffenheim which ended Schalke's 30-match winless streak in the Bundesliga, but they remain deep in the relegation places.

Gross is hoping for more points in Frankfurt on Sunday and is using the transfer window to recruit former Schalke players.

Sead Kolasinac, a product of Schalke's academy, has signed a loan deal from Arsenal until the end of the season. He captained the side which beat Hoffenheim.

Former Schalke and Bayern Munich defender Rafinha, 35, is also reportedly in talks about returning from Olympiakos.

"The keyword is 'identification', with the club, with the past, and the Bundesliga, where Schalke should - and must - belong," said Gross, Schalke's fourth head coach already this season.