Miroslav Klose has been a force in German football for more than a decade now. The Polish-born German international has become the second leading scorer in the history of the national team, with 62 goals in 112 caps since 2001, trailing only the iconic Gerd Mueller, who scored 68 goals for Die Nationalelf. German national team Coach Joachim “Jogi” Löw still highly values the contributions of the 33 year-old striker, and has considered experimenting this week in friendlies with the Ukraine and the Netherlands with fielding two strikers so as to include both Klose and Bundesliga leading scorer Mario Gomez on the pitch at the same time. Klose also has the ability to shine internationally when the entire world is watching, having scored 14 World Cup goals (second only to Brazil’s Ronaldo in World Cup history) as Germany has finished second, third and third again in the last three FIFA World Cups.
Although sometimes regarded as a player whose success comes to full fruition more for country than club, Klose’s Bundesliga career was one of great accomplishment also. Playing for 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, Klose scored 126 goals in 316 league appearances, adding another 27 goals in European competition and 21 in Cup contests. But despite playing on two Bundesliga title teams, a Champions League finalist squad and multiple Cup winners at Bayern, Klose’s playing time for the Bavarian giants dwindled in the last seasons, due not only to injury but the re-kindling of the prolific goal-scoring that high-priced Mario Gomez demonstrated while at VfB Stuttgart. During the 2010/2011 campaign, Klose only started nine matches (although he came on 11 times as a substitute) in league play, scoring only one goal and adding but one assist, following the previous year in which he only started eleven times in the league, scoring but three goals.
With Klose turning 33 last June, Bayern management and Klose could not reach agreement on a contract, as Klose preferred a two-year deal while Bayern was insistent on only a year, and Klose left the club. Rumors floated many destinations for the striker, but he somewhat surprisingly ended up in Rome with S.S. Lazio, getting the two-year deal he desired. One cannot be too harsh on Bayern management for letting Klose go….a return of four league goals in two seasons from Klose in a youth-oriented league didn’t inspire confidence, and the signing of leading 2. Bundesliga scorer Nils Petersen earlier helped cement Klose’s departure.
How would the veteran perform in his first club adventure outside Germany? Lazio won the Coppa Italia in 2008-2009, but that Cup was the only trophy in recent years as Lazio hadn’t topped Serie A in a decade. A fifth place finish last season in Serie A saw Lazio finish one place ahead of Rome rivals AS Roma, but lately the spotlight has shown more brightly on i Giallorossi, who came into the new season having won the last five head to head competitions between the Stadio Olimpico neighbors in the fierce Derby della Capitale.
Klose kickstarted his time in Rome by scoring and assisting four times in Lazio’s Europa League play-in matches with Macedonian side FK Rabotnički. Great, but that’s hardly a top-flight club…what next? Following the delay of the opening of the Serie A 2011/2012 season because of a labor dispute, Klose scored Lazio’s first league goal of the year against mighty AC Milan, giving the Romans a 2-2 draw at the San Siro. Klose has added five more goals and two assists in Serie A, topped by his game-winning stoppage time goal against AS Roma on October 16, which lifted Klose to the status of eternal Lazio legend. Klose is currently third in Italy’s goal-scoring race, two tallies behind Antonio Di Natale, and following Lazio’s 1-0 win over Parma this weekend, the Biancocelesti share the Serie A lead with Di Natale’s Udinese club.
Klose’s rebirth includes being part of the starting XI in each of Lazio’s ten Serie A matches, a distinction held only by teammates Djibril Cisses and Abdoulay Konko for Eduardo Reja’s club this season. Lazio haven’t lost a match in Serie A since being bested by Genoa 2-1 in week two, and the club with the lovely sky-blue kit are also alive in the Europa League Group stage competition, tied for second in Group D with Romanian club FC Vaslui at five points as both clubs chase Group leader Sporting Lisbon.
Klose’s play isn’t the only reason for Lazio’s success, as fellow newcomer Djibril Cissé, the 30 year-old Frenchman, has also discovered the fountain of youth in the Eternal City, contributing four assists and a goal to Lazio’s cause, while Reja has brought a new spirit to the club. Although Klose didn’t score in this weekend’s win over Parma, Corriere dello Sport’s headlined Klose’s contributions in Monday’s edition… “Vola La Lazio di Klose” (click here for more Italian footy headlines).
As a Bundesliga fan, it is very satisfying to see Miroslav Klose succeed in Serie A, lifting a recently mediocre club to the heights of Italian football. Klose has been nothing but class, both internationally and domestically, and has denounced the inclusion of his name on a poster yielded by proto-fascist fans at the Roma game. He plans on playing for Lazio through 2014, of course including another World Cup appearance for Germany. One wonders if Bayern Munich, reasonably seeking the treble this season, will wish they had retained the born-again striker, but one also wonders if Klose, as so many players do, needed a change of venue to shine again in club football. One also hopes that Klose can continue to find renewal in a new country as Schalke’s Raul has done in Germany.