Jurgen Klinsmann always likes to do things his own way, and he appears to not care what anyone thinks when he’s on the job. Perhaps the confidence it takes to become a legend on the pitch can be a curse once players decide to hit the coaching ranks.
The average American sports fan simply knows Klinsmann as the guy who left Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup roster, while diehard U.S. team supporters have mixed feelings toward the German-born boss who was signed in 2011 and extended to coach the 2018 World Cup squad. Germans, of course, know Klinsmann for his World Cup success as a player and coach but also as the man who couldn’t last more than 29 games leading the charge at Bayern Munich.
Goal USA had the opportunity to sit down with Bayern executive board chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for an hour Monday and asked the chief a few questions regarding U.S. soccer, which he was, surprisingly, more familiar with than one would imagine. When he was tossed a question about how he perceives Klinsmann’s time with the U.S. national team, the answer wasn’t what many would have expected during a good three-minute rant about his former employee.
"I believe it’s not a surprise that he’s successful," Rummenigge began, "because when he had been coaching here for one season I believe both parties, him and ourselves, made one mistake. It was looking like something little but in the end it was an important mistake.
"His second coach, the Mexican who was a nice guy and a very good coach, didn’t know anything about the Bundesliga or about German football, and I believe at the end that was a mistake done by us and done by (Klinsmann)," he added. "Maybe we had to choose a German who knew the Bundesliga who could have helped him, like maybe Joachim Low helped him during the 2006 World Cup. It was little, but in the end it was a very important mistake.
"I have to excuse him, because I know he suffered about that and in the end got fired here. But it was not his mistake alone. We also made a mistake."
Rummenigge was talking about Martin Vasquez, who remained Klinsmann’s right-hand man when he was hired by the U.S. Even though Vasquez was the reason Klinsmann was fired by the club he once played for, it’s tough to understand why Klinsmann would bring the former Chivas USA coach along for his new adventure.
To make things worse, according to a report in Sporting News in 2013, Klinsmann’s current job was in question partly because of Vasquez’s inability to be a top tactician. But Klinsmann may have learned his lesson, put his ego aside and smartened up when he let Vasquez go just weeks before the 2014 World Cup.
Rummenigge keeps an eye on MLS
Rummenigge likes the direction Major League Soccer is headed and is not surprised European players are making their way to the North American league.
"I’m following a bit," the 59-year-old said. "Telling you the truth, if I was playing football today, I would like to play football in the States as well because I have always had a favor for your country, from the lifestyle and a bit from everything. I like the cities and the people have been very offering in the States, but unfortunately I’m too old and can’t play."
Rummenigge brought his club to last year’s MLS All-Star game in Portland shortly after the World Cup and noted that he wanted to give the American fans a good show, even though some of his German players weren’t exactly thrilled to have to fly in and play an exhibition after a long run in Brazil.
He was impressed by the Portland fans and sees MLS as a growing league that could one day compete with the other top leagues in the world.
"I believe hopefully sitting together here in 10 years I’m convinced that Major League Soccer will have grown," he said. "I have the impression that more and more players, important players, have the will to go to the States to play in this league and that will make the league more famous, not just alone in the States but in the football world as a whole. And that will be helpful."
But why aren’t more Bundesliga and German players following in the footsteps of David Beckham, David Villa, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard?
"Maybe we’ll have to do a joint venture so German and Bayern Munich players could come to the States to try to help and build soccer," he joked.