Klinsmann: Not German enough for Germany?

Josie Le Blond
Josie Le Blond - [email protected]
Klinsmann: Not German enough for Germany?
German-born US coach Jürgen Klinsmann celebrates his team's win over Ghana in June 2014. Photo: DPA

The USA’s German-born coach, Jürgen Klinsmann, squares up against his countrymen on Thursday in the football World Cup. The former German coach changed the nation's football forever and is The Local's German of the Week.


Jürgen Klinsmann tweeted a note on Wednesday excusing the entire US workforce from their offices to watch the Germany-USA match on Thursday. That's the kind of guy he is.

All employees had to do was print off and fill in Klinsmann's signed note and sit back to watch the clash, scheduled for the middle of the working day in the States.

But he is not only a working man's hero - the 49-year-old is also a family man.

Born in Stuttgart in 1964, Klinsmann married his American wife Debbie, 43, a former model, in a secret ceremony in California in 1995. Together they have a 13-year-old daughter, Leila, and an 18-year-old son, Jonathan, who plays as goalkeeper for the US under-18s team.

But the Klinsmanns don't always stick together. His brother Horst, who owns the Bäckerei Klinsmann bakery in Stuttgart, has said he will be supporting Germany, not the US tonight. 

Although it is clear where Jürgen Klinsmann's footballing loyalties lie, Germans seem unsure about where his national pride is. Klinsmann has even indicated he would one day consider renouncing his German citizenship to become an American.

And Welt newspaper called him "misunderstood and dangerous" before the match.

"Somehow he was always not quite German enough for Germany. Or Germany was not enough Klinsmann," wrote the paper.

Certainly in his long sporting career, the 1990 World Cup winner has shown many sides. 

As a player Klinsmann proved himself one of Germany’s finest ever goalscorers, scoring 231 goals in 514 appearances in club football, and 38 goals in 80 appearances for Germany.

He played for several prominent European clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich.

Known as a serial diver, while playing for Tottenham his signature celebration was to slide on his belly towards the fans.

But although he is often blamed in England for bringing diving to the Premier League, it was his contribution to the German game that got him his reputation as a revolutionary.

Bringing sexy back

Ten years ago, the German game was at its lowest point for half a century, the national team a laughing stock. 

From his appointment as head coach in 2004, Klinsmann set about changing that, picking younger, more exciting players and demanding fast, attacking, entertaining football.

With his right hand man, Joachim Löw, he led Germany to an unexpected World Cup semi-final at the home World Cup in 2006.

Not only that, his philosophy set in motion a nationwide revolution in youth development. Today, German football is among the top producers of young footballing talent.

After the 2006 tournament, though, he threw in the towel as Germany coach, handing the reins to Löw. Following a brief, disastrous spell as Bayern Munich coach in 2009, he eventually ended up in his spiritual home: the USA.

Jürgen the American

As coach of the US national team, he speaks of “the American desire to win”, and does so in a thick Californian accent, with only the faintest hint of his infamous Swabian twang.

True to his ideology, Klinsmann’s US team is also built on youth talent, much of it plundered from Germany. In his World Cup squad, there are five German-born players, all of whom played in the Bundesliga last season.

SEE ALSO: Klinsmann ready for emotional Germany clash


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