It is never easy moving to a foreign land to ply your trade in a league altogether different from the one you are used to. Some players adapt quicker than others and some do not overcome the hurdles they are faced with at all.
For Jürgen Klinsmann, the prospect to play in the English Premier League was one he could not turn down. He was with AS Monaco at the time, where he had relative success, scoring 29 goals in 65 appearances in France’s top league. But something was missing for Klinsmann—he had never experienced the Premier League and at 30-years-of-age, the move to the Spurs was just too good to turn down.
His pedigree was well known in England prior to his move but his reputation as a diver preceded him, and many English and Spurs fans, in general, were worried by such gamesmanship. The English game, after all, was renowned for its grit not a reincarnation of Swan Lake.
Klinsmann’s move was met by little skepticism apart from the obvious concerns about his inability to stay on his feet. Immediately he built a rapport with strike partner Teddy Sheringham and it was this friendship that would ultimately break the ice with English football fans.
Headlines eschewed his goal in his debut against Sheffield Wednesday—but not because of the goal. Klinsmann and Sheringham simulated diving upon scoring and this comedic side to the German became a sensation, in what only can be subscribed now as “going viral”. In his tenure in the Premier League, 150,000 shirts were sold with his name on and he managed to score 21 league goals in the 94/95 season at White Hart Lane, 30 in all competitions.
The German international brought much more to Spurs than his goal-scoring exploits. Much like his partner in crime, Sheringham, Klinsmann was industrious but also had finesse in abundance that contributed to the team’s attacking flair. He set up as many goals as he scored which saw him receive mainstream recognition when he won the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year Award in 1995.
So after such success in his first season, it came as somewhat of a bombshell when he announced he would be heading back to Germany to sign with Bayern Munich where he would go on to be their top scorer for the next two seasons. It was terrible news for the Spurs fans, a premature exit from someone they had managed to sign in his prime.
After two seasons at Bayern, he would move back to the Serie A with Sampdoria. However, this unsuccessful return to Italy would usher in a dream move back to London. But would he still be as potent in front of goal, some two-and-a-half years later?
Some say Klinsmann single-handedly saved the Spurs from relegation that year but his stay would not last long. A high profile break-up with polarising, authoritarian manager Christian Gross saw Klinsmann leave the club for the second time. Two knee jerk departures bemused most at White Hart Lane but this did not stop fans from signing his name.
Klinsmann remains an icon in north London. There were even calls to install him as manager at White Hart Lane upon Tim Sherwood’s dismissal in 2013 before Daniel Levy opted for promising Argentine Mauricio Pochettino from Southampton. And while Klinsmann is working his magic with the United States senior men’s national team, one cannot help but feel that he is destined to return to London in the not too distant future.
Recent victories over the Netherlands have seen Klinsmann’s stock rise significantly as a manger. And he will no doubt guide the US team to the next World Cup but there should be no surprise to see the German end his time in international play after the 2018 World Cup. He will have been manager of the US team for seven years after the tournament and his desire to return to club football has been widely documented.
Could we see Klinsmann back in north London after the World Cup? With the murmurings about Pochettino potentially joining Manchester United in the summer, and if Louie Van Gaal is dismissed at Old Trafford, then chairman Daniel Levy could well look to bring in the popular German as his replacement.