A Bundesliga and FIFA World Cup winner as a player, ex-Germany and USA head coach Jürgen Klinsmann has returned to his homeland to work his magic with Hertha Berlin.
1) History in the baking
Klinsmann’s family had a bakery in Stuttgart, and as a teenager one of the deadliest strikers in the game combined finishing attacking moves with following recipes. The current Hertha head coach took his father’s advice by doing an apprenticeship as a baker before concentrating on his football with Stuttgarter Kickers.
Klinsmann told FourFourTwo magazine that he had “never seriously considered” a future in the family business, but also revealed that his hard work there had paid off. “My speciality?,” he said. “I liked making Swabian pretzels. That’s a particular kind of a roll from the region where I come from in Stuttgart and I liked to make that. My Dad was always happy with my work in that area.”
2) Starring in Stuttgart
Having cut his teeth in the second tier with one local side, Klinsmann moved to another – top-flight VfB Stuttgart – in July 1984. The forward soon started making his mark, scoring 15 league goals in his first year at the club. In the 1985/86 season he struck five times in a 7-0 win at Fortuna Düsseldorf, and he also came close to getting his first winners’ medal. His goal against Bayern in the DFB Cup final, though, was only a consolation.
Klinsmann would continue to improve, however, and a remarkable overhead kick in a victory over Bayern helped make him the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer in 1987/88. Registering 19 Bundesliga goals that season also saw Klinsmann – at the age of 24 – named as West Germany’s Player of the Year for 1988.
3) Speeding up his game
Klinsmann’s older brother was a decathlete at a local sports club, and he suggested that Jürgen should fine-tune his running and build up his strength. At the age of 18 – two times per week – Klinsmann started working with his brother’s track and field coach. After a year of such painstaking extra training, the striker’s speed over 100 metres had dropped by a second.
“I started working with the sprint coach to get stronger and faster,” Klinsmann told Erik Kirschbaum for his book Soccer Without Borders. “It helped me to get a lot faster, actually. My upper arms were stronger and I wasn’t being pushed around as much late in the game anymore.
“I was obviously more explosive, and because I was more efficient energy wise, I lasted ninety minutes. In soccer, it’s the last 20 minutes of a game when big things happen. So I started to run people into the ground. After seventy minutes I could see they were getting tired, and I’d say ‘Now I’m going to finish you off.’”
The extra work on the track – carried out unbeknownst to his football coaches – was clearly worthwhile. Klinsmann scored 94 goals in 186 games for Stuttgart between 1984 and 1989. One of those strikes came in the 1989 UEFA Cup final, when his side suffered a narrow defeat against Diego Maradona’s Napoli.
Watch: Take a closer look at Klinsmann's playing career
4) Air Klinsmann
As if being a baker and goalscorer wasn’t enough, Klinsmann logged hundreds of flying hours to successfully obtain a commercial helicopter pilot’s licence. USA coach at the time, Klinsmann regularly flew to and from his California home and the team’s training camps during the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. That allowed him to both spend more time with his family and chalk up valuable flying practice.
"It really was just an idea I had three years ago – to fulfil a dream that I had as a little boy," Klinsmann said back in 2014. "It was my dream, but I unfortunately became a soccer player."
Klinsmann’s mode of transport had sometimes caught the eye during his playing days, notably when he drove around London in a tiny 1967 Volkswagen Beetle while on the books of Tottenham Hotspur in the mid-1990s. The helicopter rides, though, allowed him to dodge traffic, and gave him a bird’s eye view of both the downtown streets and the beaches around Los Angeles.
“It’s just absolutely gorgeous to be up there,” Klinsmann told US Soccer. “In a helicopter, you really get a sense for what goes on on the ground… I think it’s absolutely fascinating.”
5) Big tournament player
Klinsmann’s famous goal for Stuttgart against Bayern had a significant impact on his career, as he soon made his international debut for West Germany in September 1987.
“Basically it was the goal that opened the doors to international football for me, because a month later Franz Beckenbauer called me up to the national squad, and shortly after that I got my first cap – that’s why it was the most special goal,” Klinsmann told FourFourTwo.
Klinsmann set up the equaliser for Beckenbauer’s side in a 1-1 draw with Brazil, and would go on to register 47 goals in 108 caps for his country.
Having moved to Inter Milan in 1989 – where he won the 1991 UEFA Cup final alongside German teammates Lothar Matthäus and Andreas Brehme – the in-form frontman starred at his first World Cup.
He first collected a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympic Games before his team got the better of Maradona’s Argentina in the World Cup final two years later. The former Monaco striker’s record at major international tournaments is a standout from a memorable career, and he was also on target multiple times at the 1994 and 1998 World Cups. Only five players – including record holder Mirsolav Klose (16) and Gerd Müller (14) – scored more World Cup goals than Klinsmann (11).
He also netted at three European Championships, captaining a unified Germany to victory over the Czech Republic at UEFA Euro 1996 in England.
6) The Bayern connection
Klinsmann was a Bayern player between 1995 and 1997, and in his two successful seasons he netted 31 top-flight goals in 65 appearances. In his first year in Bavaria, he scored in the 1996 UEFA Cup final as his side got the better of a Bordeaux side that included legendary France playmaker Zinedine Zidane as well as future Bayern left-back Bixente Lizarazu. He topped the Bayern scoring charts in each of his two seasons, helping them win the Bundesliga in 1996/97.
After rounding off his top-level playing career at Sampdoria and with a second stint at Spurs, Klinsmann would return to Bayern in 2008 – after guiding Germany to the 2006 World Cup semi-finals in his first coaching role. His spell on the Bayern bench was less successful, however, and he departed with five games left in the 2008/09 season. Nevertheless, his time as both a player and a coach at the record champions had a lasting impact.
"I'm so grateful for the years I spent in Munich," Klinsmann said when appointed as interim coach of Hertha in late 2019. "I learnt so much there, which has served me well."
7) The USA years
Klinsmann’s second coming in Munich was sandwiched by periods at the helm of both Germany and the USA. With the former, he led his country to third-place finishes at both the 2005 Confederations Cup and the 2006 World Cup on home soil.
In 2011, Klinsmann was named as USA head coach, where success at the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup preceded 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification. The USMNT were drawn in a group with eventual champions Germany, and – having beaten Ghana – they were denied a famous win over Portugal due to an injury-time equaliser. They then lost to Germany, with Thomas Müller – whose career was kickstarted by Klinsmann at Bayern – scoring the only goal.
Four points from three games saw them through to the Round of 16, though, where Klinsmann’s side suffered an agonising extra-time defeat against Belgium.
He would spend five years with USA, and was named CONCACAF Coach of the Year in 2013 before leaving the post in November 2016.
8) AKA Jay Göppingen
Despite having retired from professional football, Klinsmann clearly still had the playing bug when he moved to the United States. In 2003, he turned out for Orange County Blue Star in the fourth-tier of America’s football pyramid.
An ex-international footballer still driven to play the game: so far, so normal. Klinsmann’s five goals in eight appearances, however, were given to a non-existent player under the name of Jay Göppingen.
“I actually didn’t know about it until I heard it [later],” Klinsmann recalled. “But it seems the guy who runs the league played about with my name on their website, because he didn’t want it to get out. So he actually changed my name – he used my place of birth, Göppingen – but I was happy because people left me alone and I could play amateur football locally.”
9) Charity man
Klinsmann developed a reputation as a caring individual in his playing days, visiting prisons, contributing to environmental organisations, and – in 1995 – setting up the Agapedia foundation with a group of friends. The charity, whose name means “love for children” in Greek, has focused on supporting children in need and carrying out humanitarian projects.
The 1994-1995 English Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year also signed off his professional career in remarkably generous fashion. In May 1999, he donated all the proceeds from his farewell match to children’s charities. True to form, Klinsmann – then 34 – scored six goals as his World XI beat a VfB Stuttgart selection 8-6.
"I wanted to do things differently and have everyone go home with a smile on their faces – having fun,” he said after the match, which was played in front of a sell-out crowd of over 50,000 in Stuttgart.
10) Like father, like son
Klinsmann moved to the USA, where his wife is from, in part to help his children grow up without the added pressure of being immediately recognised as the descendant of a footballing superstar.
Jonathan Klinsmann, though, would become a talented player in his own right. He spent time with Bayern as a child while his father was coaching there, and – having started out as a striker - soon made the switch to the goalkeeping position.
“One of my friends at school said I should go in goal,” he said. “I loved it straightaway. Then I started playing at home in the garden with my Dad. He was always firing shots in. I never liked it when he scored past me. It just went from there."
Klinsmann Jnr rose through the ranks to star for the USMNT at the U20 World Cup in May 2017, earning a move to Hertha. He saved a penalty on his debut in a 1-1 draw with Swedish side Ostersunds in December 2017, before moving to Swiss side St. Gallen in July 2019.
But when one Klinsmann left the German capital, another soon returned. Jürgen Klinsmann has been a Hertha member since 2004, and his father grew up near Berlin and was a fan of the club.
“My first Bundesliga game was Hertha against Stuttgart,” Klinsmann said after returning to Germany to replace Ante Covic as head coach. “I stood there as an eight-year-old lad in the stand with a blue and white flag.”
He's now in his mid-50s, but Klinsmann seems every bit as passionate about football as he was then.
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