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Jürgen Klinsmann is perhaps best placed to talk Americans and the Bundesliga. - © 2019 Getty Images
Jürgen Klinsmann is perhaps best placed to talk Americans and the Bundesliga. - © 2019 Getty Images

Jürgen Klinsmann: "Young Americans know they'll get a chance in the Bundesliga"


Having played for Bayern Munich, VfB Stuttgart and Germany, among others, and coached the US men's national team for a number of years, Jürgen Klinsmann is uniquely placed to discuss the ever-strengthening ties between the two footballing nations.

Speaking to US broadcaster ESPN, the 55-year-old touched on a wide range of topics, including the ever-growing number of young American players flocking to Germany, who can challenge Bayern for the title and the impact Phillipe Coutinho can have on the league.

Question: Jürgen Klinsmann, what has stood out for you so far this Bundesliga season?

Klinsmann: "What stands out is that it's a really tight competition, especially at the top now that RB Leipzig have basically become a new contender for Bayern. Obviously we're waiting for Borussia Dortmund to gain even more ground, so hopefully we're going to see a very exciting season."

Watch: Klinsmann's top 5 Bundesliga goals

Question: Players like Zack Steffen, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent are all having good campaigns so far. What is it about the Bundesliga that attracts these young stars?

Klinsmann: "I think the Bundesliga's a league that has traditionally always given a chance to young players coming through the ranks. It's always based on performance, so when an American player comes over and performs, then he gets a chance to play. There's not much politics involved. The coaches are usually very straightforward. If the kid understands that it's all down to performance and that they'll get a chance, then the Bundesliga's the place to be."

Question: How does their development differ from in other leagues?

Klinsmann: "I think Germany always takes a little bit of a risk in promoting young players, giving them opportunities. They don't shy away if there's a kid who's 18, 19 or 20. If they see that he has tremendous talent or has potential then they try him out, they throw him in at the deep end – you've got to swim no matter what! So I think this is something that's very attractive for the American culture and now having so many American players in the Bundesliga is really exciting."

Question: Last season there was a very close title race in the Bundesliga between Bayern and Dortmund. What do you expect from Der Klassiker this season?

Klinsmann: "The Klassiker is always exciting, especially when they play the game in Dortmund in front of more than 80,000 fans. Anything can happen. It's a game that attracts a huge audience around the world, a bit like Barcelona versus Real Madrid or Manchester United against Manchester City, or the big ones in other leagues. And Dortmund against Bayern is something you want to see; it's something you have to see."

Watch: Zack Steffen, a Bundesliga star is born

Question: The Bundesliga is renowned for fielding exciting young players. Who are your three best players on the rise, and why?

Klinsmann: "I wouldn't like to name specific players now. It's a league where it goes through phases. You get players who are 18, 19 or 20 who suddenly shine for a couple of weeks and you think they're a new superstar but then they fade away and other ones emerge.

"I think from an American point of view, it's really fun to see American players get a chance to break in, even if they're sometimes just coming off the bench. You want to see them develop and development takes several years. I wouldn't say 'it's going to be this kid, or that kid', I would rather say we have to look two, three or four years down the road and see who made it."

Question: Philippe Coutinho was the transfer coup of the summer window. What do you think he offers Bayern and the Bundesliga?

Klinsmann: "Well, he's a special player. When the top teams in the world try to get a player, they want to get a difference maker. Those kinds of teams are full of international players and if you want to succeed in a team like that, be it Bayern, Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City, you have to be a difference maker. And Coutinho is a difference maker. He's very special."

Question: You were a great striker yourself and now Robert Lewandowski is one of the best forwards in the world. What is it that makes him so special?

Klinsmann: "Lewandowski's just a complete striker. He's fun to watch. He reminds me a little bit of Marco van Basten in the 1990s and he's a bit similar to Edin Dzeko, for example, from AS Roma. They're players that can score at any moment, be it with their left or right foot, they're strong in the air and are tremendous finishers. Going back to what I said before, they're difference makers. So if you have a Lewandowski on your team who guarantees you 20 to 25 goals a season, you sleep a lot better as a coach!"

Watch: Lewandowski August's Goal of the Month winner

Question: What is your favourite characteristic about the Bundesliga?

Klinsmann: "I think the Bundesliga has an aura of always being an attacking league. Germans want to see attacking teams going for it. There are full stadiums, a lot of the infrastructure of the Bundesliga stadiums remains from the 2006 World Cup.

"They're very modern and up-to-date. What I love about the Bundesliga is that you see old people and young people in the stadiums, women and kids too. It's a very safe league and there are no issues with violence or anything that maybe other leagues have. So it's always highly entertaining."

Question: For viewers outside of Germany, the Bundesliga may be new. What's the one thing you want them to understand about the league?

Klinsmann: "It's an attack-minded league. If you look at the average number of goals scored in the Bundesliga compared to other leagues, it's always in the top three of all the leagues in the world. What's also tremendously interesting about the Bundesliga is the relegation fight.

"We always have the discussion in the United States that there's no promotion or relegation system. Sometimes it's even more fascinating than who's going to win the title. That relegation battle, who's going to go up and down, can end up being a real thriller towards the end of a season. So there's always tension and excitement and you see people going to the stadiums, they just want to be entertained and they love it."

Klinsmann is excited to see how Neven Subotic and Union Berlin fare in their maiden Bundesliga season. - AFP/Getty Images

Question: Can you name a fixture you're excited to watch that isn't Bayern versus Dortmund?

Klinsmann: "I'm super excited that there's a second Berlin team in the league now in Union Berlin. They represent the former East Germany a little bit. After reunification in 1989 it was really important for more teams to come out of the East German community, and now in our capital city we have two teams that will face each other kind of for the first time, so it's very special.

"So if I give you one game to watch it's Union Berlin against Hertha Berlin, especially in Union's home stadium [on Matchday 10]."