Fresh off winning the Gold Cup with the United States, manager Jurgen Klinsmann celebrates his 49th birthday on Tueday. While his success with the US is very recent, Klinsmann has been one of the biggest names in soccer for several decades. One of Germany's all-time greates players, Klinsmann has made a living racking up international titles almost everywhere he's gone. Join us as we look back at the highlights of his illustrious career.
Making his mark
After showing promise in hist first few seasons with Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, his breakthrough moment came during the 1987-88 season. Then only 23 years old, Klinsmann scored a legendary bicycle kick goal in a rivalry game against then-German champions, Bayern Munich. The bicycle kick was one of 19 goals on the year for Klinsmann, helping him take home the Bundesliga’s top scorer award. More importantly, Klinsmann raised eyebrows across Europe, and his first appearance for the German National Team followed less than a month after.
Just one season later, Klinsmann would establish himself as one of not only Germany’s, but Europe’s best players. With a series of complete performances in both Germany and the European Championships, Klinsmann was named German Footballer of the Year in 1988. He followed that up leading his Stuttgart side to the 1988-89 UEFA Cup Final. Unfortunately, his side met their match against an unyielding Napoli – Diego Maradona’s Napoli.
Klinsmann transferred to Inter Milan in the summer of 1989 to join up with fellow German stars Lothar Matthaeus and Andi Brehme. At the time, Serie A was not only the world’s most prominent league, but also one of its most defensive-minded. Nonetheless, Klinsmann found an outlet for his creativity, scoring 13 goals for Inter in his first season, and 14 in his second. Immersing himself freely in the Italian culture, Klinsmann also quickly became one of the country’s most popular foreign athletes. His time with Inter culminated in a 1991 UEFA Cup title, in which Klinsmann’s Inter took down a talented Roma side.
Into the history books
After shining in both the 1988 Summer Olympics and European Championships, Klinsmann truly proved his international mettle during the 1990 World Cup. Klinsmann rose to the occasion, scoring three goals and playing a leading role in West Germany’s World Cup winning squad. He will be most remembered for his role in a famous Round of 16 victory against long-time nemesis Netherlands, scoring the opening goal. At the time, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote: "In the last decade, not a single forward of a DFB team has offered such a brilliant, almost perfect performance,” as Klinsmann did that game.
Taking England by storm
Klinsmann’s move to Tottenham Hotspur and the Premier League in 1994 wasn’t well-received at first. Cast as a German villain with a reputation as a diver to boot – the ultimate sin to English football fans – it didn’t take long for Klinsmann to win over his critics. On the opening day of the season, Klinsmann marked his debut with a goal and a cheeky celebration, self-deprecatingly diving to the ground as a fingerpoint to his critics. He immediately won over fans and media with his grit on the field and humor off it, and after tallying 20 Premier League goals for Spurs that year, Klinsmann won the 1995 FWA Footballer of the Year award, only the second German player ever to do so.
Though he stayed with Spurs for just the 1994-95 season (he would return on loan three years later), Klinsmann would take England by storm again just a year later at the 1996 European Championship. After winning the 1990 World Cup, Klinsmann earned his second international title at the '96 Euros, this time as captain. Klinsmann’s three goals during the course of the tournament were just a formality, really. In every international tournament Klinsmann has played in, from the 1988 Euros to the 1998 World Cup, he’s scored at least three goals for his country.
By the time Klinsmann came back to the Bundesliga and joined Bayern Munich in the 1995, Klinsmann was entering the twilight of his career, yet didn’t seize to earn team and personal accolades. He led his team in scoring in both seasons and played a crucial role in Bayern’s 1996 UEFA Cup triumph, as well as the 1997 Bundesliga title, Klinsmann’s first and only league title of his career. Fun fact: Klinsmann’s mark of 15 goals in 12 games during the '96 UEFA Cup campaign set a record that was only broken in 2011.
Instant managerial success
Following a successful playing career, and a number of years out of the spotlight, Klinsmann regained the world’s attention when he took over as manager of the German National Team in the run-up to the 2006 World Cup, which Germany hosted. While Klinsmann drew some skepticism from critics, he won them over with the team's performance during the World Cup. With a team primarily made up of younger players and conservative expectations, the team steamrolled the competition, only losing to Italy in a tight semifinal battle that went to extra time. So enamored with Klinsmann were German fans that many were upset over his decision not to renew his contract.
A new challenge
After a failed managing stint at Bayern Munich, a lucrative offer from the United States convinced Klinsmann to take on a new international managing role in 2011. Klinsmann immediately embarked on project similar to that which had reinvigorated the German national team, focusing on building a stronger youth system. Initial results were questionable and drew widespread criticism, but Klinsmann kept moving forward and, at the present moment, has a World Cup birth for 2014 practically guaranteed.
First trophy as coach
In the 2013 Gold Cup, Klinsmann's squad made light work of CONCACAF competition in claiming the United States' fifth Gold Cup title, and Klinsmann's very first trophy as a manager. Though he missed the final due to suspension, critics left no doubt as to who should be credited for the USA's fine performances. Klinsmann's team impressed with hencetofore unseen attacking prowess and benefited from their manager's lucky hand with impactful subsitutions. US fans will hope it is the beginning of a long and successful era under Klinsmann.