Jurgen Klopp’s influence in Germany has far exceeded his Silverware return. Could he do the same in England?
In 1996, Berti Vogts took an ageing German team to European glory, beating a youthful Czech Republic team in the Wembley final. Fast forward to the following April and Ottmar Hitzfeld led Borussia Dortmund to the Champions League title following a 3-1 win over Juventus.
However, a year later, on the international front, Germany were comprehensively beaten by Croatia in the World Cup quarter final and Vogts lost his job as coach. Meanwhile Hitzfeld had moved to Bayern Munich and saw his troops come within a whisker of Champions League glory, having victory snatched from their grasp courtesy of two late Manchester United strikes.
The turn of the century saw the German national team reach its nadir under Erich Ribbech with an abysmal showing in European Championships held in 2000. At club level however, European success was to come with Bayern Munich winning their first Champions League trophy following a 2-1 defeat of Valencia in the San Siro.
In the 2002 World Cup, inspired by their captain Oliver Kahn, Rudi Voller’s Germany reached the final where they were beaten by a strong Brazil outfit. Voller took the team to Euro 2004 in Portugal where they were sent packing early in the tournament and Voller, in his maiden management role, exited stage right.
With regards to the Champions League, the German clubs mirrored their national team’s fortunes by playing minor roles in the tournament in the period after the 2001 Bayern victory (no final appearance from Leverkusen in 2002 until Bayern in 2010).
Following Voller’s departure, another legendary German forward with no experience of coaching senior teams was promoted to the manager’s position. Enter Jurgen Klinsmann who breathed new life into the team as they took the 2006 World Cup by storm. As hosts, they surprised many with their performances, ending up with the bronze medal.
Klinsmann left to replace Hitzfeld at Bayern Munich while his assistant, Jogi Low, took the reins at national level. Despite the upturn in fortune on the international scene, the stock of German managers hadn’t risen much throughout Europe with no German club reaching the latter stages of the Champions League until Bayern Munich reached the final in 2010 and also appeared in 2012 and 2013. The winning coach in 2013- veteran Juup Heynckes -didn’t start the next season, while his opposite number is now one of the most sought after coaches in Europe.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jurgen Klopp blended a team of average German players and cheap foreign signings into a unit that fought tooth and nail with giants Bayern Munich for the title. Klopp built his reputation at Mainz where he turned them into a high energy, pressing team. He continued this trend at Dortmund and developed the careers of players such as Roman Weidenfeller, Erik Durm, Mats Hummels, Marcel Schmelzer, Kevin Grosskreutz, Ilkay Gundogan, Sven Bender and Marco Reus so much that they are all German internationals. His influence on the national team was such that a player who was seen as one of his ‘star pupils’- Mario Goetze- scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final.
Goetze left for Bayern Munich, along with a striker who formed a formidable reputation at Dortmund- Robert Lewandowski- and with that went Dortmund’s hopes of remaining competitive with Munich. However, Klopp’s star never faded and the national team are in good stead- backboned by players developed at the Westfalstadion.
If Klopp is Premier League bound then he should hope that he continues his trailblazing form which has seen both Borussia Dortmund and the German national team reassert themselves to a new audience. Previous German managers who worked in the UK recently include Felix Magath who couldn’t save Fulham from relegation and Berti Vogts whose tenure in charge of the Scottish national team isn’t remembered fondly up north.
Vogts built his winning Euro 96 team around a Borussia Dortmund defensive midfielder in Matthias Sammer, could Klopp join Arsenal, take Ilkay Gundogan with him and reawaken the winning spirit of Arsenal? Or maybe at Manchester City where they have yet to feature in Europe while Klopp took Dortmund to the final in 2012.
Whatever the future for Klopp, the facts are that he has had a profound influence on both club and international football in Germany over the past five years and he deserves a lot more credit for his development of players than his silverware haul. Seven players he has coached have been called up for Germany in the past 12 months, Germany are ranked number one in the world and are the current world champions.
This writer isn’t suggesting that Klopp is responsible- that honour falls to the German FA, Jurgen Klinsmann and Jogi Low- but he’s played a part in keeping the success going. Maybe the English FA could have a word with the top Premier League clubs who are trying to entice Klopp and reassure them he’d be worth the risk.