Dubai: Robert Huth, a three-time English Premier League winner, has put his tremendous success down to “pure hunger and the will to excel”.
Huth, who will turn 36 in August, was part of Jose Mourinho’s squad when Chelsea picked up back-to-back Premier League titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06. And then nearly a decade later, he was celebrating a third crown as underdogs Leicester City went all the way while ending the 2015-16 season on a high.
“The money wasn’t there, but the hunger was there along with the will to succeed,” Huth told Chris Brown of ‘It’s Just Football’ during the online seminar ‘The Player, The Coach, The Person’ earlier this week.
“When a player is injured, everything sucks. One’s lone obsession is to get fit again because there’s a job to be done out there on the field. You’ve got to have the focus all the time,” he said.
He was scouted from the youth system of German club Union Berlin much before his 16th birthday with Claudio Ranieri at the helm. Though featuring in the Italian’s plans after joining in 2001, Huth was constantly overshadowed much of his time at Stamford Bridge due to the overpowering presence of first-choice Mourinho’s picks such as John Terry, William Gallas and Ricardo Carvalho.
“I was fortunate in a way to have so many of these great players training with me. We didn’t have the money, so we stayed hungry for success. Everyone knew that Champions League meant that extra bit, so everyone stayed focused on the job that needed to be done,” Huth said.
“But I was young and I was positive that something good would come out after all this. And, I didn’t know a single word of English, yet I could clearly see what was needed of me to chart my own course in English football.”
Huth joined Middlesbrough in August 2006 for a fee of 6 million pounds (Dh27.04 million). With Gareth Southgate as the manager — and he was literally signed at midnight before the transfer window closed — the German spent three years at the Riverside. But, after the club were relegated in 2009, Huth moved to Stoke City for a then club record fee of 5 million pounds.
He suffered a knee injury while at Stoke, and after sitting out through a recovery process for nearly a year, he moved on loan to Leicester City in February 2015. The next season, the German centre-back made his move permanent as Ranieri-led Leicester went on to stun the footballing world and the bookmakers while winning their only EPL title.
“The most important thing for me then was that I was getting adequate game time. That was my chance to prove what I was capable of, and every time I came on, I was hungry. And that to me was the key,” Huth said.
Huth holds the record of making the most appearances (322) in the English Premier League by a German player. Huth also earned 19 caps for Germany between 2004 and 2009 with his two major successes being third place finishes at the 2005 Fifa Confederations Cup and the 2006 Fifa World Cup.