Tottenham Hotspur fans likely have different memories of former German captain and Tottenham striker, Jurgen Klinsmann, depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside.
Those in Europe likely remember the player who hoisted a World Cup for Germany. Spurs fans probably remember Jurgen fondly doing things like scoring four against Wimbledon back in 1998.
For fans of the beautiful game in the USA, however, our memories are not of Klinsmann the fantastic player but rather are of Klinsmann the failed USMNT coach.
Klinsmann arrived a GOAT and left the goat
When Jurgen Klinsmann was hired to take over the US Men’s National Soccer team it was a real boon for US Soccer. Klinsmann was a known name and a winner having helped propel Germany to the 1990 World Cup. Germany also won Euro 96 with Klinsmann.
Jurgen also won the UEFA Cup with both Inter and Bayern Munich as well as the Bundesliga with Bayern. A two-time German footballer of the year, his long stride and blonde locks were familiar to fans of the sport around the world, including soccer enthusiasts in America.
Some success at a price should sound familiar to Tottenham fans
Klinsmann’s time with the USMNT cannot be deemed a complete disaster. With 55 wins from 98 matches, a 56% win rate and 1.84 points per match is a decent return. It was a slight improvement for the USA over the results under Bob Bradley, but still not as good as what the US had experienced under Bruce Arena a decade before.
Under Klinsmann the USMNT had some nice accomplishments as well, winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the fifth time as a country. Klinsmann also guided the US out of the Group of Death in 2014, advancing in a group that included Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. The USMNT then lost a dramatic 2-1 game against Belgium in the Round of 16, with Tim Howard playing the role of superman to keep the US in the match.
Following the ‘heroics’ of a Round of 16 run – this is the US we are talking about – things started to go south. A stirring win over the Czech Republic in a friendly in September 2014 made it look like the US was for real. However, five straight without a win, including draws against Ecuador and Honduras as well as a humiliating 4-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland proved it was a false dawn.
It was not just the results that were the problem with Jurgen Klinsmann
Klinsmann led the team for a further two years, making it to the semi-finals of both the Gold Cup (2015) and the Copa-America Centario (2016), but ended up finishing fourth in both tournaments. It was a 4-0 drubbing by Costa Rica in November 2016 that was the last straw for the USMNT, who brought back Bruce Arena 11 years after he left in a moment of desperation.
The big problem for the USMNT was not even the results but the discord and lack of chemistry across the team and organization. Look, soccer in the US has long been led by people more interested in power and money than actually winning. Much like we see happen at Tottenham with leadership and managers, there was a struggle for power inside the USMNT.
Klinsmann wanted to control everything and yet often controlled nothing
Klinsmann wanted to have the say over the players and the team down to who was picked and what they ate. However, players and others within the USMNT did not appreciate his ways, particularly given his instructions were more focused off the pitch at times than on it.
Klinsmann was never short of ideas on the pitch but couldn’t implement them. According to a report from 2018 after Klinsmann was let go, “it was hard for players to tell whether a Klinsmann decision was a calculated “creative disruption” or just the whim of a coach who woke up with a new idea”.
The lack of consistency and clarity untimely led to serious chemistry problems within the USMNT that remained for years after he left.
Maybe the one thing Daniel Levy would like about Klinsmann is his willingness to give youth a shot often at the cost of veteran egos. However, while the US is benefitting today – years later – for including players like John Brooks in his setup, decisions to leave out veterans ultimately led to the US not making the 2018 World Cup, a disastrous outcome for US football.
So while we might see Klinsmann bring in some young players, he lacks the tactical nous to move Spurs forward and also struggles with veterans. Maybe some folks have fond memories of Klinsmann with Spurs. I just have the disappointment of missing the 2018 World Cup, which is one memory I do not want to be passed on to Tottenham.