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Why Would England Want Jürgen Klinsmann?

Babies. It’s all about babies.

Getty Images
Getty Images

After the wreckage of Euro 2016 and the departure of Roy Hodgson, England is in need of a new manager. If you believe the reports, the powers that be might believe they’ve found just the man for the job: Jürgen Klinsmann.

But why, exactly, would England want Klinsmann at the reins? He led Germany to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, but much of that team’s success has been attributed to the team’s current coach, Jogi Löw, who was then Klinsmann’s no. 2. Klinsmann then flamed out after a bad year with Bayern Munich, a period that former players like Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos have described as gloomy, tactically mismanaged, and bound for failure. In 2011, he took over as manager of the U.S. men’s national team, and he has spent much of the last year on the proverbial hot seat after the team was nearly wiped out in March by Guatemala, in a match that could have spelled elimination from the 2018 World Cup had the Stars and Stripes lost.

After taking the team to the Copa América semifinals against Argentina, Klinsmann has finally regained some job stability, but it seems clear that whether he leaves this summer or sometime later (his contract is up after the World Cup), the German is unlikely to deliver on the promises made when he took over the U.S. team: namely, rejuvenating the men’s squad and finally building a serious international contender. When he was hired, Klinsmann was given broad autonomy over the U.S. Soccer program — he was officially named technical director in 2013 — and he was so optimistic that at his introductory press conference, he joked about finding a Lionel Messi in the United States. Klinsmann has since expanded the depth of the team’s player pool, but their performances haven’t been a clear improvement from those under previous manager Bob Bradley.

They don’t seem too worried about any of this across the pond. Klinsmann, who starred for Tottenham in the early ’90s, is backed as a candidate for the England job by the likes of former Liverpool defender and England international Jamie Carragher, who wrote a column for the Daily Mail slamming the English soccer academy system. The headline: “English players are weak… we think we are making them men but we’re creating babies.”

Mark Ogden of The Independent doubled down with his praise of Klinsmann:

Other writers have hailed everything from Klinsmann’s “infectious personality” to his international tournament experience to his understanding of “ugly” soccer. He’s been described as “more than just a coach,” a “hands-on boss” who has revolutionized U.S. Soccer to “a level never seen before.” A fawning account of his accomplishments as a Tottenham player notes his “smile and intelligent soundbites” and willingness to make tough decisions; if there is a fault identified, it is an overzealousness with youth development, which, ironically, is something England could use some help with.

That sound you hear is American soccer fans pointing and laughing. Klinsmann’s flirtations with other posts are quickly becoming the stuff of legend: He was linked to the Southampton job a few weeks ago. The betting odds of his getting the job then dropped dramatically, as they have now with the England position. (Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce is the bookmakers’ favorite. He interviewed with the English Football Association earlier today.) Klinsmann has been linked with other jobs in the past, and then quickly come out and quashed the rumors; there are more than a few who have hypothesized that the U.S. coach, finally relieved of the hot seat, might be engaging in an elaborate negotiating tactic. But even if this is all the work of the Klinsmann propaganda machine, it still doesn’t change the fact that so many voices in the English media badly want him in charge.

So have at it, England. Best of luck to you and the babies.