BERLIN — Former United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann is enjoying the tranquility of Californian life after his brief but tumultuous time in charge of Hertha Berlin, and looking forward to a brighter future for American soccer.
Klinsmann left Hertha in chaos in February 2020 when he quit the German club abruptly after 10 weeks as coach.
A subsequent report he wrote for the Hertha backer Lars Windhorst, who initially brought him in as an adviser, caused a furor after being leaked to the Bild tabloid, which published incendiary extracts.
Klinsmann wrote that Hertha’s management should be replaced immediately, and he blasted the players for not being willing to suffer for the club.
“Everything that was written in the paper was true. It was just my summary for the investor. And now unfortunately a year after that happened, it proves to be right for a lot of other people in Germany,” Klinsmann said in a video call with journalists last week.
Klinsmann remains proud of his work at Hertha, and pointed out that he left the team in a better position then – six points above the relegation zone – than it is in now.
“I moved on and they moved back in the same direction, unfortunately,” Klinsmann said.
While he has been enjoying relative peace at home in Huntington Beach, Hertha has remained in turmoil.
General manager Michael Preetz – against whom Klinsmann clashed during his time as coach – has since been fired by the club, ending his 25-year association with the club, and Pál Dárdai has returned as coach in a bid to save it from relegation.
Hertha’s win over Augsburg on Saturday was its first in 10 games and it left the team just two points above the relegation zone – a huge disappointment for a club that had been targeting European qualification on the back of investments totalling 374 million euros ($450 million) from Windhorst.
“Now looking back, it’s sad to see the club where they are,” Klinsmann said. “I just hope for the club that they figure out a way to get away from the danger of really getting relegated.”
Hertha has a new managing director in former Sky Germany CEO Carsten Schmidt, and there is talk of Fredi Bobic joining as sporting director from Eintracht Frankfurt. Bobic is leaving Frankfurt after five successful years at the end of this season.
“I think (it) will be fantastic for the club because Fredi is a proven personality in the business there,” Klinsmann said. “I wish the club would find the right people.”
Klinsmann coached the U.S. from 2011-16 and has enjoyed watching his ideas take hold with American players such as Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams (Leipzig) and Sergiño Dest (Barcelona) playing for Europe’s top sides.
“Champions League teams! You know, this is awesome. This is something that everybody should be proud of. Everybody involved in the development of those players,” Klinsmann said. He foresees the sport’s popularity growing even more as the U.S. prepares to host the World Cup in 2026.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Klinsmann, who predicted the American team also making a “big, big splash” splash at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar under coach Gregg Berhalter.
Klinsmann was a prolific striker for Stuttgart, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Bayern Munich among other clubs. He helped West Germany win the 1990 World Cup with three goals.
But his son Jonathan has opted to stop goals, and is fighting to be the first-choice goalkeeper at LA Galaxy after coming through at Hertha and Swiss team St. Gallen.
“No matter where he goes and where he plays, he has to accept the competition for the No. 1 spot. He does this also at the Galaxy, no problem, but he has a healthy amount of confidence and he has obviously a lot of quality,” Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann, who also previously coached Germany, finishing third at the 2006 World Cup, is content to wait and see what comes next.
“Sooner or later I will go back into management, because that’s where I really kind of feel challenged. You get to prove a point in what you’re doing.” But he does not appear to be in any hurry to prove anything.
“I was never really kind of actively running out there looking for another job or whatever. Things just came at a certain time in a certain way. And I took them on or I didn’t take them on,” he added. “This is the crazy side, a little bit, of soccer, that you never know what happens tomorrow. … When I came on in Berlin as an adviser for the investor and nothing else, suddenly two weeks later, I was coaching the team.”
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CiaráN Fahey, The Associated Press