3. JUERGEN KLINSMANN: 'I'm my own man'

By Mike Woitalla
Executive Editor, Soccer America

We may never know exactly why negotiations between U.S. Soccer and Juergen Klinsmann broke down. Federation president Sunil Gulati made it clear he would not reveal the details and Klinsmann is a famously private man.

Judging from Klinsmann's past contract negotiations, as a player with clubs in four different countries and as Germany's World Cup 2006 coach, it may have been that the German sought control of areas the Federation was not willing to cede to the national team coach.

Early in his playing career at VfB Stuttgart, as offers from foreign clubs poured in, Klinsmann shunned the major agencies typically chosen for representation by rising stars.

He would negotiate directly with teams and bring his trusted lawyer, Andre Gross, in for the final phase, according to a Klinsmann biography penned by Michael Horeni.

And Klinsmann was unwilling to accommodate a system that at the time gave players little control over their destiny. Players were "owned" by clubs and there was no free agency. Klinsmann, however, negotiated lucrative deals that gave him much more freedom than his fellow players had in deciding where they would play and when they could move.

"No one can tell me, 'do this or do that.' I am free. I'm my own man," Klinsmann is quoted as saying in the biography.

When he signed with Inter Milan, Klinsmann reportedly had a guaranteed starting role written into the contract. His contract with Tottenham Hotspur, where he became a fan favorite, included an escape clause that club boss Alan Sugar seemed to be on unaware of when Klinsmann departed after 10 months for Bayern Munich.

The angry Sugar threw an autographed Klinsmann jersey on the ground and said it wasn't fit to wash his car.

"He thought I had a two-year deal but it was a one-year deal with a two-year option," Klinsmann told The Observer. "He got upset, but no big problem."

Klinsmann retired after the 1998 World Cup, at age 34, and moved to California with his American wife.

In 2004, two years before Germany would host the World Cup, the German national team was in crisis. It exited the European Championship in the first round and Coach Rudi Voeller jumped ship.

The German federation (DFB) found itself in the embarrassing situation of having top candidates decline. Klinsmann outlined a detailed plan for revamping German soccer and the national team, met with the DFB, and was hired for a reported $2.8 million a year.

The DFB took a chance on a former star with no coaching experience. And it was hiring a man who said, "Basically, the whole organization needs to be dismantled."

The DFB bosses, with the World Cup looming, had no choice but to cede extraordinary control to its national team coach. It even allowed Klinsmann to remain a California resident and commute to Germany.

And Klinsmann cleaned house, firing members of the old guard at various levels in the federation and replacing them with his choices. He hired a Swiss scout, a private firm of American fitness trainers and a sports psychologist.

As German magazine Spiegel put it, "Klinsmann has been turning the national team into a separate world within the DFB, unilaterally independent and freeing it from the organization's ponderous structures."

The DFB was indeed in desperate need of change. Its national team was no longer beating the traditional powers nor was it producing world-class players.

The USA may have exited in the first round of the last World Cup, but U.S. Soccer is not looking an overhaul and would understandably balk at demands to give a national team coach carte blanche.
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