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‘The ideal candidate'

Lateral thinker to plot new course for Bayern

When Jürgen Klinsmann took his place on the rostrum in the Garmisch room of the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel at 3.56 p.m., flanked by board directors Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeneß and Karl Hopfner and club president Franz Beckenbauer, it was final confirmation of the news that had prompted complete astonishment even among the most die-hard FCB fans earlier in the day. Former Germany coach Klinsmann will succeed Ottmar Hitzfeld as Bayern head coach on 1 July. Seldom is the expression ‘sensation’ as pertinent as in this case.

“I am enormously pleased and honoured to become Bayern’s coach,” the 43-year-old told the 240 journalists and 33 camera crews at the hastily convened news conference. On Friday morning the two sides had agreed the final details of Klinsmann’s two-year contract. “Everything was sorted out once Jürgen arrived in Munich,” reported a satisfied general manager Uli Hoeness. Hitzfeld’s successor could be unveiled sooner than anyone expected.

Rummenigge championed Klinsmann

At first sight it might seem surprising that Hoeness and his colleagues should have decided on the not uncontroversial figure of Klinsmann. The verbal sparring between the former striker and the Bayern management during his spell as national coach from 2004 up to the 2006 World Cup has not been forgotten. “But we were never poles apart in our dealings with Jürgen and – something which is not publicly known – we often spoke before and during the World Cup,” Hoeness revealed. “Our personal relationship was always good.” And Klinsmann confirmed: “Uli, as well as Karl-Heinz and Franz, gave me a lot of backing within the association over those two years.”

Nevertheless, barely a single commentator had pencilled in Klinsmann’s name on the list of possible successors to Hitzfeld. “I would like to stress once and for all that Jürgen was always our ideal candidate,” Rummenigge insisted. After Hitzfeld informed the management on December 17 that he would not renew his contract when it expired at the end of the season, the chairman had himself raised Klinsmann’s name and immediately received the endorsement of his colleagues. “Karl-Heinz also made the first contact by phone,” Hoeness said, something that took place a few days before Christmas.

Ticking all the boxes

“When the call came, it was an easy decision in terms of gut feeling,” said Klinsmann, whose son Jonathan was born in Munich during his spell as a player with Bayern between 1995 and 1997. “Jürgen slept on it, then he was all for it,” Hoeness said. The contract was drawn up over the holiday period in negotiations between the Bayern management and Klinsmann’s representatives, while he himself was constantly on the phone to Hoeness to push things along, the general manager revealed. On Friday Klinsmann’s first job as a club coach was finally signed and sealed. “Everyone at Bayern is looking forward to working together,” Rummenigge emphasised.

Hoeness made clear why the Bayern management and chairman Beckenbauer had been unanimous in their choice of Klinsmann. “We were looking for someone who was forward-thinking, who would encourage good football, and who could bring on the younger players,” he said. “Jürgen ticked all those boxes.” Klinsmann, he said, was “an unorthodox coach. I am extremely pleased that with Jürgen we’ve found a lateral thinker, someone who will take us in new directions.”

Back-room staff

Beckenbauer described the appointment of Klinsmann as “clever and bold”, recalling how the one-time world-class striker had shaken up the German Football Association following his arrival. “He introduced modern training methods with new techniques that have been copied since by many coaches.” Klinsmann is set to continue that process at Bayern.

“I’m very much looking forward to continuing the work I began with the national side,” Klinsmann confirmed, indicating that he planned to assemble his own back-room staff over the next few months. “It will be an international team, including people from the United States. We will create a hive of energy that the players will enjoy a lot.” His coaching philosophy is easy to sum up: “To help every individual player improve every day, and with them the team.”

Polyglot Klinsmann

The players say they are already looking forward to working with the new boss. “We’re glad Jürgen Klinsmann is to be our coach,” said their representative, Germany striker Miroslav Klose. For his part, Klinsmann spoke of the allure of the coach’s job at Bayern: “I’ll enjoy working again with all the players who were with me in the national squad, but I’m also fascinated by the prospect of working with top international players.” Thanks to his linguistic fluency – he speaks English, French, Italian and now Spanish – Klinsmann is well equipped for the cultural melting pot of today’s Bayern.

Neither side has the slightest doubt that Klinsmann is absolutely the right man for Germany’s most successful club. “If he could go as far he did with a national side that was a beaten team in 2004, just imagine what he can do at Bayern with a team that’s starting from a good base,” Hoeness said confidently. And Klinsmann added: “I learned a great deal as national coach and had to overcome a lot of tough situations. The expectations at Bayern are as high as anywhere in club football. But I’m ready for that.”