Despite overseeing a 2-1 home defeat to Borussia Dortmund in his first game as Hertha Berlin head coach, Jürgen Klinsmann says he could not be happier to be back in the Bundesliga.
The former Germany striker, 55, had been out of work since his five-year spell at the helm of the USMNT came to an end in November 2016, while his first and only previous job in charge of a Bundesliga club was at Bayern Munich between 1 July 2008 and 27 April 2009.
"It was a wonderful feeling, being back, being back in our capital, Berlin, was something special,” Klinsmann told bundesliga.com after the game at the Olympiastadion. "The Bundesliga is a wonderful league, it’s very, very competitive. I’m a competitor. So, when I go into and adventure, I will give everything I have and put all the work in."
Watch: Jürgen Klinsmann happy to be back in the Bundesliga
It looked like being a long afternoon for Klinsmann when Dortmund raced into a 2-0 lead, but Hertha hit back through Vladimir Darida and had a Davie Selke effort ruled out for offside in the slenderest of 2-1 defeats. The Old Lady slipped into the relegation play-off spot as a result - and have now lost their last five - but Klinsmann is optimistic his charges can turn a corner.
"Obviously we wanted more and we had the feeling that if we could make it 2-2, we could go on and win the game," he admitted. "The effort was their, the team put everything into it, it was a very, very good performance. We fought back to make it 2-1, and you saw in the second half how Dortmund had to defend being a man down in the second half. Unfortunately we couldn’t make the most of the pressure we put them under. It hurts that we didn’t get at least a point from the game, but I’m happy overall. The boys did everything I asked of them."
Klinsmann made three changes to the Hertha team that lost 4-0 to Augsburg in Covic’s final game as coach a week ago. Goalkeeper Thomas Kraft replaced the suspended Rune Jarstein and Dodi Lukebakio was preferred on the left wing to Javairo Dilrosun, while Karim Rekik returned in defence following illness at the expense of Lukas Klünter. The Dutchman lined up on the right-hand side, having been used centrally in his six previous outings of the season, and already likes what he has seen of his new mentor.
"He’s a very professional guy," Rekik revealed in a pitch-side interview with bundesliga.com. "Of course he was a great player, so he has all the respect of the players. I think that’s very important. He’s serious in the things that he does, he’s very [focussed], so we can learn a lot from him."
Watch: Karim Rekik on his first impressions of Klinsmann
Klinsmann’s return to the Bundesliga touchline has also been warmly received by Dortmund captain Marco Reus. The 30-year-old has never worked under Hertha's new tactician, but his accomplishments as a player for club and country over the course of a storied career that took in Bundesliga, UEFA Cup, FIFA World Cup and UEFA Euro winner’s medals, as well as bronze with Germany as coach at the 2006 World Cup, will not have gone unnoticed by the BVB talisman.
"I’m happy that Jürgen is back," Reus told bundesliga.com, after lining up against a Klinsmann-led team for the first time. "Of course it will take some time, it’s difficult for a new coach to change everything in just a few days. For us it also extremely difficult because we did not know what he was going to do. I think we will get to know his philosophy in the coming weeks."
Watch: Marco Reus welcomes Klinsmann's return to the Bundesliga
Hertha travel to Eintracht Frankfurt in their next Bundesliga match on 6 December. The Old Lady then face Freiburg (h), Bayer Leverkusen (a) and Borussia Mönchengladbach (h) in their final three assignments before the onset of the German top flight’s customary winter break.
Hertha resume their campaign at home to Bayern - with whom Klinsmann spent two years as a player between 1995 and 1997 before returning as coach - on 19 January 2020.