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The Fall of Klinsmann
by Mike Woitalla, April 28th, 2009 7AM

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[GERMANY] European club coaches get fired all the time, but Bayern Munich's sacking of Juergen Klinsmann is of particular interest this side of the Atlantic because of his American connections. A California resident since his playing days ended in 1998 until he took the Bayern job last summer, Klinsmann brought two American assistant coaches to Munich, tried unsuccessfully to incorporate Landon Donovan into the Bayern squad, and was, in 2006, courted to coach the U.S. national team.

Both assistants -- Martin Vasquez, previously assistant coach of Chivas USA, and Nick Theslof, who coached the PDL's Orange County Blue Star -- were sent packing along with Klinsmann after Bayern was eliminated from the European Champions League and the German Cup while its Bundesliga title hopes faded.

Bayern's loss last weekend at home against Schalke 04 was its seventh of the season. It lost only two league games when it won its record 21st Bundesliga title in 2007-08, before Klinsmann came aboard.

With five games left in the Bundesliga season, Bayern is in third place, three points behind leader VfL Wolfsburg, and ahead of fourth-place Stuttgart and fifth-place Hamburg only thanks to goal difference.

Klinsmann's bosses feared not only a league title slipping away, but failure to qualify for the Champions League, which would mean a nearly $60 million loss of income. So, after only 10 months in charge, Klinsmann's stint came to an end.

Klinsmann's had a long, successful playing career that included the 1990 World Cup title and 1996 European Championship crown. But he had no coaching experience when he took the helm of Germany's national team two years before the 2006 World Cup.

Although a third-place finish as host would seem a modest achievement for a traditional soccer power that finished runner-up at the previous World Cup, Klinsmann was hailed as a hero. His young team played attacking soccer in a tournament plagued by otherwise low-scoring, dour defensive efforts.

Klinsmann resigned after the 2006 World Cup. U.S. Soccer made him the top choice as a replacement for Bruce Arena following the disappointing first-round U.S. exit at the 2006 World Cup. But Klinsmann's demand for complete control of the national team program was impossible for  U.S. Soccer to meet. Instead, it hired Bob Bradley on an interim basis before giving him the job for real.

Bayern bosses, even though their team was defending Bundesliga champion, hired Klinsmann to start a new era at the club. The goal was international success after not lifting a European title since 2001.

For sure, Klinsmann would have been given more time to create a serious Champions League contender, but struggling in the Bundesliga was unforgivable for the nation's richest club.

Reports in the German media - which Klinsmann said were exaggerated - had Bayern players complaining about a lack of tactical guidance. Meanwhile, Klinsmann's methods - such as erecting Buddha statues on the training grounds and encouraging yoga for the players - were mocked in the German media.

A winning team would have silenced his detractors, but Bayern opened the season with a 2-2 tie, and in the second month of the season, fell, 5-2, at home to Werder Bremen. By October, Bayern's performances made for its worst start to a season in 31 years. But club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge gave a vote of confidence: "He will definitely be on the bench at the end of the season."

Klinsmann had promised fast, one-touch soccer - but Bayern stayed near the top of the standings only because none of the competition was winning with consistency.

The German media had hammered Klinsmann during the 2006 World Cup preparations for commuting from California and using American fitness trainers. But then the popularity of Klinsmann's team during the World Cup elicited apologizes from his biggest critics, such as the mass circulation Bild newspaper.

When Bayern floundered under Klinsmann, the media piled on again. Not the least of their attacks were directed at his American connections. Why hire American assistant coaches instead of continuing the long Bayern tradition of hiring from within?

Upon taking the Bayern helm, Klinsmann said his philosophy was to "make every player better everyday." The media enjoyed throwing that statement out again and again as the players performed worse than in the previous season.

By the winter break, Bayern was tied with newly promoted Hoffenheim for first place, but was behind on goal difference. Klinsmann brought in Donovan on loan, and after promising displays in friendly games, Donovan's failure to score during a string of losses provided fodder for Klinsmann's legion of detractors. Donovan returned to Los Angeles.

In March, Bayer Leverkusen ousted the defending cup winner Bayern from the German Cup with a 4-2 win. A 12-1 aggregate win over Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League took the pressure off, but then it lost 5-1 to Wolfsburg.

Barcelona thumped Bayern out of the Champions League quarterfinals, winning 5-1 on aggregate, and then the Schalke loss sealed Klinsmann's fate.

According to German media reports, Bayern owes Klinsmann, who had a contract through June of 2010, between $5 million and $12 million in severance pay.

 

 

 

 



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