Back to Lederhosen Jürgen Klinsmann returns home to FC Bayern - By Thomas Kistner
Expectations are as high as opinions are divided. Will Klinsmann provide as much joy to the Germans as coach of FC Bayern Munich as he did coaching the German national football team in 2006? Or is he doomed?
Never has a personnel change created more of a stir - former national football team striker and coach Jürgen Klinsmann is leaving California on July 1 to begin coaching FC Bayern Munich. The media was on the verge of hysteria, and even Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on it. That is what happens when sacred national institutions collide.
FC Bayern represents a piece of German national identity - at least outwardly, when the team stirs up the crowd in Europe's largest stadiums with their claim of "Mir san mir!" ("We're just great!") In Germany the club's nickname is "FC Hollywood" - over the past 25 years no other institution has provided the entertainment industry with more gossip and scandals than the record champions.
And yet, all of that pales in comparison to Klinsmann. His name represents a new German attitude toward life. Klinsmann gave the Germans their summer fairytale, a non-stop countrywide party at the 2006 World Cup where his team came in third. Not thousands, not hundred of thousands but a million people celebrated their "Klins-men" in Berlin. During the weeks of the World Cup he received almost messianic adoration. In football, the only other heroic figure that had received such attention up until that point was Franz Beckenbauer, whose nickname is "Der Kaiser" (the emperor) or "Lichtgestalt" (luminary), and who himself has been with FC Bayern for many years.
All this indicates of the inevitable problems brewing on the horizon for the Klinsmann/Bayern marriage. At the same time, it promises the great entertainment value that Germans expect.
Klinsmann is ego-driven, with a high sense of responsibility and a huge ability to persevere, combined with a strong will to succeed. As the new national team coach before the World Cup, he met with very little resistance from the German Football Association. Their officials were dealing with the biggest leadership crisis in the group's history, and so they gave their new athletic director free reign.
At FC Bayern things are different. The club is ruled by a leadership-troika that practically oozes self-confidence and that constantly signals they are the font from which all football wisdom springs - Beckenbauer, the president, plus Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness who head the professional football department. All three of them were legendary German national team members, and all three are now pursuing their own interests at the club. The fourth heavyweight on the scene is consultant Paul Breitner, also a former national team member and avowed troublemaker.
Beckenbauer was indignant that he only found out about Klinsmann's appointment shortly before it was made public, that he wasn't involved in the search or the final decision. For a long time, Beckenbauer was the ultimate authority at the club. Now, not least because he's also a well-paid informant for the German tabloid, Bild, he has relegated himself to the sidelines. For the first time both Beckenbauer and the tabloids were outmaneuvered, and it came with the most important change of all, that of head coach.
Both Bild and Beckenbauer will closely follow how well Klinsmann does. In an off-the-cuff comment on Klinsmann's hiring, Beckenbauer said, "Critics will say that Jürgen has never trained a club team and they're right."
These are difficult starting conditions. And the question remains as to whether or not Klinsmann will succeed in making Germany's top team number one in Europe. So far nothing points in that direction, technically speaking. It's his debut as a club coach, but despite this he will be earning much more - rumored to be ?8 million per year - than his predecessor Ottmar Hitzfeld did. But Hitzfeld is one of the most successful coaches ever, winning the Champions League twice. The bar is set very high for Klinsmann.
Like he did for the World Cup as national coach, Klinsmann is putting together a team of experts in Munich, with scouts, psychologists, fitness advisors from the U.S. and Europe, as well as a co-trainer as unfamiliar with the German national league as the coach himself - supposedly the Argentinean Osvaldo Ardiles. The slogan on the homepage of the business development company "SoccerSolutions" - Klinsmann is its vice president and has been involved with it since 2001 - reads, "A global network of resources for achieving success in football."
Not just Germany, but all of Europe is looking toward Munich. If Klinsmann's concept pans out, it will be the dawn of a new era. Complete coaching teams, which subscribe to the American model, could gain the upper hand, with one project manager being responsible for the entire enterprise.
But it's difficult to bring innovation to a business that still clings to down-to-earth, traditional images of coaches. Football players like simple, clear directions. And thanks to the film about the 2006 summer fairytale ("Sommermärchen"), what was seen of Klinsmann's performance in the national team's locker room was not any different from what is heard every weekend on any old football pitch: "Get out there, men, we're going to blow them away!"
On the national team, where the average age is 23, Klinsmann just had to fire up a few beginners from Hanover, Cologne and Dortmund. Whether his motivational work will be effective with hard-boiled stars like Ribery, Toni, Demichelis or van Bommel, remains to be seen.
Klinsmann requires increased presence at the workplace, diversified workouts and training, less contact with the public - all of which isn't common for the industry. At the same time, his team of experts - a fraternity of men he has hired away from the German league teams - will insert themselves between the players and the always-inquisitive club management. If the latter get cut off from the daily details that would be a break with the most important tradition in Germany's "FC Hollywood." On the other hand, if Klinsmann succeeds with his experiment, Bild and Beckenbauer will be forced to scout around for new sources of gossip.
The only certain thing is that change is in the air - for both the championship record-holders and for the man coming home from the U.S. He has got no time to lose in re-acclimating to Germany and is getting everything he requires, except, extra time. It's fascinating but also dangerous for the German fairytale. Either the magic continues - or it proves to be unrepeatable.
- Thomas Kistner is a sports editor at the Süddeutsche Zeitung.