Who Is Jürgen Klinsmann?
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Who Is Jürgen Klinsmann?
Jürgen Klinsmann is a German football manager and former player. During his career as a player, Klinsmann played for several well-known European clubs, including: VfB Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Monaco, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich. One of Germany’s top strikers during the 1990s, Klinsmann played for the West German team that won the 1990 FIFA World Cup and the unified German team that won the 1996 UEFA European Championship. He scored in all 6 major international tournaments he participated in – from the 1988 Euros to the 1998 World Cup – earning his place in the FIFA 100 list of the “125 Greatest Living Footballers”.
Born in 1964 in Göppingen, Klinsmann is one of four sons of master baker Siegfried Klinsmann and his wife, Martha. At eight years old, he began playing for an amateur football club in Gingen an der Fils, TB Gingen. Even at such a young age, Klinsmann showcased an impressive natural talent for football, scoring 16 goals in a single game for his team. At 10 years old, he transferred to SC Geislingen – sticking with this team even when his father bought a bakery in Stuttgart and the family moved away. Even after being spotted in the Württemberg youth selection, he still chose to stay with SC Geislingen. However, in 1978, at 16 years old, he signed a contract with Stuttgarter Kickers – the club that would later parachute him into a professional footballing career. However, at his parents’ insistence, Klinsmann first finished his apprenticeship as a baker in their family business.
In 1982, Klinsmann began playing for the second-division side Stuttgarter Kickers, becoming a regular starter by the end of the 1982/83 season and scoring 19 goals for the club by the end of the 1983/84 season. During his stint with the team, Klinsmann honed his skills, benefitting from intensive training with Horst Allman – one of the best sprint coaches in Germany at that time. Within one season, he managed to improve his 100m dash to 11.0 seconds from an initial 11.7 seconds.
It is no surprise then, that in 1984, Klinsmann was picked up by first division rivals VfB Stuttgart. In his first season at the club, he made a name for himself as the team’s joint top scorer with Karl Allgöwer, after scoring 15 goals – although this did not prevent the club from finishing 10th place in the league. In both the 1985/86 and 1986/87 seasons, he scored 16 goals, before scoring an impressive 19 goals in the 1987/88 season – making him the Bundesliga’s top goal scorer. In 1988, 24-year-old Klinsmann was awarded the well-deserved German Footballer of the Year. He rounded out his career with Stuttgart after reaching the 1988/89 UEFA Cup, transferring to the Italian club Inter Milan on a 3-year contract.
Klinsmann quickly became one of the most popular foreign players in Italy, thanks to his appearance and proficiency in the language. His first season with the team saw him score 13 goals, despite the defensive game-plan of head coach Giovanni Trapattoni, and the team secured third place in Serie A. He continued on an upward trajectory in the next season, beating his previous performance with 14 goals and securing the team the UEFA Cup. His contract was extended until 1994, but a disastrous 1991/92 season saw these plans quickly fall through. With Klinsmann only scoring 7 goals, the team finished 8th in the league, causing divisions among team members. Thus, Klinsmann decided to cut his tenure with Inter Milan short, moving to Monaco after the UEFA Euro 1992.
True to form, in his first season, Klinsmann catapulted his new club to a 2nd place finish in the league. However, after Marseille were found complicit in a bribery scandal, they were disqualified as league winners, with Monaco replacing them as the new winners of the 1993/94 UEFA Champions League. They reached the semi-final before losing to eventual winners, Milan. The following season, Klinsmann was forced off the pitch with a torn ligament. When Monaco only managed to secure 9th place in the league, he criticised the attitude of his teammates. In 1993, he left the club early – once again, with time still left on his contract – this time, just one year.
Klinsmann was signed to the Tottenham Hotspurs in July 1994 for £2 million, playing in the Premier League for the 1994/95 season. However, his reputation as a diver and his role in England’s elimination from the 1990 World Cup meant that he was not well-received by fans or the media. His debut against Sheffield Wednesday saw his sour reputation completely turned around, as he scored a header and won fans over with his self-deprecating goal celebration, where he jokingly dove to the ground in reference to his diving reputation.
His sense of humour, along with his extensive athletic achievements and combative playing style, quickly made Klinsmann very popular among England fans. A Guardian journalist who had previously written an article titled “Why I Hate Jürgen Klinsmann” subsequently wrote a new article, titled “Why I Love Jürgen Klinsmann”, and in 1995, Klinsmann went on the win the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year. Over 150,000 of his shirts were sold and today, he holds legendary status at Spurs, being displayed in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.
Klinsmann then went onto play for Bayern Munich during the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons, where he was the club’s top goal scorer, pushing them to a 1995/96 UEFA Cup win. During this competition, he set a new goal scoring record of 15 goals in 12 matches. A year later, he won the Bundesliga and became the German champion.
After a brief stint with Italy’s Sampdoria, Klinsmann returned to the Spurs for the 1997/98 season, saving the team from relegation with 4 goals in a 6-2 win at Wimbledon. He played the last match of his professional career in 1998, on the final day of the Premier League against Southampton.
Klinsmann made his first international appearance for West Germany in 1987, ultimately collecting 108 caps and becoming the country’s 4th most capped player. He scored 47 goals for West Germany/Germany in illustrious international matches, reaching a joint all-time 4th place with Rudi Völler. Klinsmann scored 11 goals in the FIFA World Cup, ranking 6th all-time.
In 1987, Klinsmann made his debut for Germany against Brazil in a 1-1 draw. He then went on to participate in the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal. He also participated in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 UEFA European Championships, reaching the final in 1992 and becoming the champion in 1996. Klinsmann was the first player to score in three different European Championships – with only 5 players since equalling this record.
Appearances: 65 / Goals: 25 / Assists: -
Appearances: 186 / Goals: 94 / Assists: 9
Appearances: 123 / Goals: 40 / Assists: 7
Appearances: 84 / Goals: 48 / Assists: 12
UEFA Cup Winner
German Bundesliga runner-up
Appearances: 80 / Goals: 34 / Assists: 1
Appearances: 58 / Goals: 31 / Assists: 4
Appearances: 10 / Goals: 2 / Assists –
German National Team
1x World Cup winner
1x European Champion
2x Footballer of the Year
Goal of the Year (Germany)
Bundesliga top scorer
kicker Bundesliga Team of the Season
2x Footballer of the Year (Germany)
FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
Premier League Player of the Month
Tottenham Hotspur Club Player of the Year
FWA Footballer of the Year
Premier League PFA Team of the Year
ESM Team of the Year
IFFHS World's Top Goal Scorer
Ballon d'Or runner-up
FIFA World Player of the Year Bronze award
UEFA Cup Top Scorer
2x FIFA XI
Klinsmann and Matthäus won the Italia ’90 World Cup with West Germany, as well as a number of trophies with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. However, the two had a strained relationship during their prime years playing football.
When Klinsmann began managing Germany’s national team, he adopted the strategy of rotating the number one spot for goalkeeper between Kahn and Jens Lehmann, to stimulate competition. For the 2006 World Cup, he announced Lehmann as his first-choice goalkeeper.
Where Is He Now?
In 2004, Klinsmann returned to football as the new head coach of the German national team, embarking on an aggressive program to revamp the team’s management. His largely offensive tactics have irritated some, who complained he ignored defensive football. However, his team's spirit and attacking style of play contributed to a strong performance and is considered by some to have renewed national pride and restored Germany's reputation as a top footballing nation. Due to his success coaching the national team, Klinsmann was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz.
Despite the highly acclaimed performance at the World Cup and the praise earned, Klinsmann declined to renew his contract, informing the German Football Association (DFB) of his decision on 11 July 2006.
Since then, Klinsmann has coached Bayern Munich; been a technical consultant for Major League Soccer club Toronto FV; managed the US national team, and finally managed Hertha BSC for a brief period before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.