Miroslav Klose’s appointment as assistant to Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick for the 2020/21 season is an intriguing one – mainly because the record Bundesliga champions are already doing quite well. So what could they possibly improve on?
In case you’ve already forgotten, Flick’s charges won the league and cup double in 2019/20. They also became only the second team in Bundesliga history to score 100 goals in a single season (after the 1971/72 Bayern crop with 101), while Robert Lewandowski hit more goals than any other foreign-born player (34) and Thomas Müller set a new assist record (21).
So when club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge commented that he is “convinced that our strikers in particular will benefit from Klose as a coach,” it poses a numbers of questions. bundesliga.com investigates what the former Bayern and Germany striker can contribute.
During his playing days, Klose was neither the quickest, the strongest or the tallest of forwards. Yet he still ended his career as the World Cup’s all-time top scorer with 16 goals, Germany’s all-time top scorer (71 in 137 games) and with a trophy cabinet filled to overflowing. “He’s been Germany’s most successful striker over the last 15 to 20 years,” Rummenigge continued. “Miro was Hansi’s first-choice candidate.”
Watch: Klose's best Bundesliga moments
That reputation will earn the 42-year-old instant respect among the players, but it is his insights into the art of finishing that could prove most useful. Even Lewandowski, already a master of his craft, is looking forward to working with Klose, who was likewise born in Poland and speaks the language fluently: “He was a great player and I know he’ll be able to help us with his experience and abilities. You can learn something new from every coach in order to become a better player. I want that to be the case with him, too.”
But in concrete terms, what are those abilities? Having witnessed them first hand as a former teammate of Klose’s in the Germany national team, Müller is well aware of what his strike partner is talking about.
“He’s very single-minded, and not only as a person but as a player and coach as well,” the 30-year-old said. “He was very savvy as a player. One of his strengths was his reading of the game. He didn’t run head-first through brick walls, even if his head was capable of doing so! He was very intelligent with his movement and the runs he made. If you understand the game, obviously it’s going to help you in your coaching career too.”
One area Klose’s expertise could perhaps most tangibly help Bayern is in the air. Lewandowski is admittedly excellent at heading, but only 12 of the team’s 100 league goals in 2019/20 came from headers.
Watch: All 100 of Bayern's goals in 2019/20
Standing at 6’0”, Klose is not exactly short, but considering most centre-backs are easily 6’3” or 6’4”, neither is he tall – and yet he still earned a reputation as one of the most dangerous aerial attackers in the game.
And deservedly so, too. Klose scored 58 of his 259 career club goals with his head, equating to almost a quarter of his total. He also became the first player ever to score five headed goals in a single World Cup when he did so in 2002. Clearly, then, there is a knack to it, and with Klose offering a little tweak here and a minor suggestion there, Bayern’s already formidable frontline could be about to become just that little bit more fearsome. The service is already in place, with the champions delivering the second-highest amount of crosses from open play in 2019/20 (520), behind only Eintracht Frankfurt (532).
If that is a large part of the why Klose was offered the job, the man himself has made sure he is able to take care of the how in recent years. After all, being able to transmit your knowledge is just as important as having it in the first place.
To that end, Klose – who trained as a carpenter before becoming a footballer - was determined to lay the foundations by working his way up the coaching ladder. “I apologise if this sounds stupid, but I’d only need to click my fingers if I wanted to start out at the top,” he said. “But to me that would be ridiculous, you can’t do that. Just because you were a professional player doesn’t instantly make you a professional coach. It’s like a completely new job.”
Which is why, after calling time on his playing career at Lazio in 2016, Klose spent time with Joachim Löw in the Germany national team, learning the ins and outs of the profession. He was especially taken with his former boss’s “tactical finesse” and “the way he had a feel for the players and the togetherness of the group”.
Klose subsequently had the chance to put those theories into practice when he took over as head coach of Bayern’s U17 side in 2018, away from the limelight and with more freedom to learn on the job. “I’ve gained lots of insights in the two years as U17 coach and to see the players who are in the Bayern academy campus,” he said when his appointment as Flick’s assistant was announced.
He has continued this incremental approach into the summer, enrolling on a course with the German FA (DFB) to complete his coaching badges prior to bedding in with the Bayern first team. “Anyone who knows me knows that I always want to have the best possible education. This is the next important step in my education as a coach.”
Not only that, but Klose already knows most of the players, having played alongside Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Müller for Germany, while he is also well acquainted with Flick – Löw’s former long-time assistant in the national set-up.
"With his experience as a former professional at the highest international level, Miro is the perfect addition to our coaching team," Flick said of the appointment. "We’ve known and appreciated each other for a very long time and celebrated great successes together with the national team."
The praise for his achievements at elite level is undoubtedly well placed, but his work at youth level also made him of even greater interest to Bayern. Lewandowski is still going strong and has just finished his most prolific season ever, but at 31, even he cannot continue indefinitely.
Joshua Zirkzee, Fiete Arp and Leon Dajaku are waiting in the wings, eager to become the first academy players to properly establish themselves in the first team since the likes of Müller, David Alaba and Toni Kroos almost a decade ago.
Klose led the U17s to the U17 Bundesliga South/South-West title in his first season at the helm, the team averaging 2.5 goals a game as they finished three points clear at the top. They were in third in 2019/20 before the coronavirus pandemic forced the campaign to be abandoned.
Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic hinted that those accomplishments had also been a factor in Klose’s promotion: “I’m very happy that Miro’s joining the first-team coaching staff. In his two years with the U17s he not only got very good results, he also developed the players really well. His experience as a player will be a big boost for us.”