Chances are Genero Zeefuik will return to the Netherlands this summer with a sackful of goals and rejuvenated morale.
The Dutch striker’s loan spell at Hearts has been convincingly prolific, with ten goals in 12 games to date. He isn’t finished yet, although he admits he will miss Tynecastle when the season ends and he is contractually obliged to rejoin parent club Groningen.
Hearts would be interested in signing Zeefuik permanently but are not keen to pay a transfer fee for a player who has one year of his contract remaining. The considerable salary package he is on at Stadion Euroborg would also need to be factored in. All of the above means a deal is unlikely at best.
Zeefuik, however, has certainly made the most of his opportunity in Scotland. He enters tonight’s league game with Alloa knowing he is just three goals behind the Championship’s leading scorer, Jason Cummings of Hibs. When you remember Zeefuik didn’t join Hearts until January 8, his remarkable ratio stands out even more.
His goals helped secure the league title in record time and propel Hearts back into the top tier of Scottish football. They have also revitalised a striker who was down on his luck at Groningen and desperately seeking a fresh start.
“The people here, the fans, the coach, the players – of course I’m going to miss them. It’s been a good half season for me here and I will miss everyone. I’m grateful for the chance to play here and enjoy scoring goals again,” said Zeefuik, speaking exclusively to the Evening News.
“I came here wanting to play and that was my focus. I want to play and score goals. I’m a striker and it’s my job to score and play well for the team. I have done that here. I hope my career is back on track and I want to keep scoring every week until the end of the season. I’m a striker and if you don’t score goals then people will notice you are a striker who cannot score. Just now, I am feeling good, I am scoring and I’m happy. I hope we win every game that is left and that, for me, will be a good season.”
Zeefuik admits his future is shrouded in mystery. He knows he isn’t likely to continue at Hearts, barring a change of circumstances, but appears to be surplus to requirements at Groningen. He spent the first half of the season in the Dutch club’s reserves as they tried to find a willing buyer for a player who cost them ¤500,000 in 2012. The loan spell in Scotland has attracted attention from the Netherlands given the goals Zeefuik has scored. He is a player who was very highly regarded during his teens and is now eager to regain some momentum in his career. He admits he simply has to wait to find out what Groningen plan to do with him.
“It’s about the club. We are waiting for Groningen to find out what they want for me. We will see at the end of the season if I go back there, or if I stay here, or if I need to find another club. I don’t know what will happen,” he explained. “For me, this has been a good season. I’m very happy with everybody at Hearts. If I go to another club then I know I have done my job here. Hearts wanted me to come here, play well and score goals for them to make the club champions. That was my target and I have worked to achieve that every day. I’m happy with what I have done here.”
When asked if he believed he could still have a future with Groningen, Zeefuik replied: “I don’t know. I can’t tell you just now if Groningen want me because I don’t know. I don’t think so.”
The Dutch club have kept regular tabs on Zeefuik since he arrived in Edinburgh, calling him on a weekly basis to talk about his performances at Hearts and even visiting Tynecastle to watch him in action. His impressive scoring ratio has been noted too.
“They contact me every week and they say I have done well. We will see at the end of the season what they’re going to do – if they are going to let me stay here with Hearts or if I have to go back or go to another club.”
Hearts suffered a rare defeat - only their second of the league campaign – against Rangers on Sunday but again the scoresheet detailed Zeefuik’s name. Finding the net at Ibrox was cause for some celebration for the forward on what was his 25th birthday, although three points would have ensured a perfect afternoon.
“That was goal number ten for this season,” he said with a smile. “It was my birthday on Sunday but we lost. I was happy with my goal but it would have been better if we won the game. That would have made the perfect birthday for me.
“I’ve been very happy with the goals I have scored here. I wanted to play. I didn’t play during the first half of the season at Groningen and I wanted to play regularly. I came here to get games and I’ve played a lot of matches. I’ve been happy. Sometimes I play well, sometimes I can be better. I’ve scored goals and that was my target so I’m very happy with that.”