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Klinsmann calls the shots from California

November 16, 2004 11:20 IST

Juergen Klinsmann speaks with a soft, southern German accent and wears a friendly smile when he flies in from his California home but beneath the tan and beach-boy hair is a no-nonsense taskmaster.

Klinsmann, whose stated aim is to win the 2006 World Cup for hosts Germany, was named coach after a tortuous search to find a successor for Rudi Voeller just over 100 days ago.

The former striker who won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 96 wasted no time shaking up the old world of the German Football Association (DFB) with new world ideas, even though critics doubted his credentials and lack of coaching experience.

Aside from a clean-out at the DFB, in which he fired coaches and demoted managers, Klinsmann also discarded the hierarchy at the Germany team which made a humiliating exit from Euro 2004 at the group stage and has struggled against major powers for the last five years.

Dubbed a "cold-blooded killer" by former team mate but long-time sparring partner Lothar Matthaeus for unceremoniously firing goalkeeping coach Sepp Maier, Klinsmann has made a number of controversial decisions and many enemies in his first months in charge.

Klinsmann has led the new-look Germany to two wins over Austria and Iran as well as an inspiring draw against Brazil in his first three matches -- enough to help people forget the popular Voeller, who quit in June, but not enough to silence doubters.

Some disapprove of Klinsmann's decision to stay in California and commute. They say he should be in Germany every weekend watching players, not at the beach in California.

But Klinsmann, 40, brushes off the critics, saying there are 10 DFB staff watching Bundesliga matches and reporting to him.

"I don't see any problems about my commuting," Klinsmann said on a recent one-day trip to Germany to attend the draw for the 2005 Confederations Cup.


He communicates with his team via e-mails, rising at 5.30 every morning.

"It's no different to what countless thousands of people in other professions do," added Klinsmann, who spends most of the 11-hour flights on his laptop. "So far there haven't been any problems whatsoever."

In California, Klinsmann and his family live in a state of blissful anonymity they could never find in Germany, though they may move back to Germany ahead of the World Cup.

"We're talking about moving here from the spring of 2006 until the finals," said Klinsmann.

Some people, such as Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, say Klinsmann is smart to stay away in the meantime.


good that Juergen gets away from Germany quickly so he doesn't have to read all the nonsense that gets printed in the newspapers here," Rummenigge said in a recent newspaper interview.

Klinsmann has built up a modern structure with a team manager, fitness experts and psychological training.

"For me the only important thing is what we achieve in July 2006," Klinsmann said ahead of Germany's friendly against Cameroon in Leipzig on Wednesday.

As a former international with 108 caps, Klinsmann has taken steps to shield his players from DFB officials, sponsors and other backslappers, especially during team meals.

The players praised that; others criticised him.

"Obviously I discuss everything with the team and I expect feedback from them," he said. "But someone has to decide which route to take and that's my responsibility. If at the end of the day it doesn't work out, it's my neck that's on the line."


Klinsmann has dropped other bombshells before flying home.

He wants to move Germany's World Cup training camp away from Leverkusen even though that was agreed before he arrived. Another idea since scrapped was to keep Germany out of the 2006 opening match because the team would already be under enough pressure.

His biggest changes have been on the pitch.

Under Voeller, the team played a cautious game built around a solid defence; Klinsmann's Germany have adopted an attractive fast-paced style, with five goals in three matches.

Klinsmann's first act was to demote Oliver Kahn, captain and hero of the 2002 World Cup team that made it to the finals before losing to Brazil, and give his long-suffering understudy Jens Lehmann of Arsenal a fair chance to win the goalkeeping job in 2006.

Lehmann is a relatively sound, athletic keeper, but is also prone to eccentric mistakes and Voeller took exception to his claims that he was better than Kahn, nearly dropping him from the squad. Klinsmann, however, has encouraged the rivalry.

Open about his affinity for the fast-paced, physical nature of English soccer, where he had two spells with Tottenham Hotspur, Klinsmann has given his Germany team a distinctive Premier League look, calling up Robert Huth of Chelsea, Aston Villa midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger and Fulham defender Moritz Volz.

"People in Germany may not realise it, but my life has changed a lot since I left six years ago," said Klinsmann, who also played in Italy and France.

"My eyes have been opened."

Erik Kirschbaum
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