Interview – Joachim Löw and Jürgen Klinsmann

Two old acquaintances will meet in Washington’s RFK stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2:30 p.m. local time) as the US men’s national team play host to Germany as part of the festivities to celebrate the centenary jubilee of the U.S. Soccer Federation.

Seven years ago, Joachim Löw and Jürgen Klinsmann were key actors at the 2006 FIFA World Cup that fans in Germany, in almost Shakespearean fashion, have dubbed a “summer’s fairy tale”. Meeting with staff, they talk about their joint past and their plans for the future.

Article originally conceived and published at Jürgen, Joachim – when did you last meet or speak to one another?

Jürgen Klinsmann: I had planned to travel to Germany and team up with Jogi a few weeks ago, but the trip fell through for various reasons.

Joachim Löw: We’ve been keeping up a fairly regular e-mail exchange, and I’ve been paying close attention to what Jürgen and his team have been up to (laughs). There’s no such thing as a fixed time and date to pick up the phone, that simply wouldn’t be us. But I greatly appreciate Jürgen’s opinion on whatever issue I feel is relevant, not just on football. Klinsmann: (laughs) If Jogi were a little more tech friendly, we could even skype or chat, but as things stand, we restrict ourselves to sending e-mails or speaking on the phone … After the much-quoted summer’s fairy tale of 2006, the public perception of your partnership had Jürgen Klinsmann responsible for PR work and delivering fiery team talks, while Joachim Löw was in charge of actual training and team tactics…

Löw: I know, but nothing could be further from the truth! Jürgen has huge experience and tremendous competence. We always worked together on all tactical issues. Obviously, head coaches have to be able to see the wider picture. That’s what Jürgen did at the time, and that’s what I’m there for now, co-operating closely with Hansi Flick, Andreas Köpke, and Oliver Bierhoff. Let me put it this way: Jürgen is an excellent coach, whose most outstanding quality is his ability to inspire and motivate people, but at the same time he’s a methodical worker who’s hungry for success and leaves nothing to chance to achieve it. We were a great team, working and learning together.

Klinsmann: And let’s not forget that a coach’s job specs have changed over the last few years. The days of coaches leading a one-man-show are over. These days, you’ve got to be ready to delegate responsibilities, listen, and seek expert advice. It’s strange that some people still consider this a weakness – for me, that’s a strength. What have you learned during your two years together with Germany? Is there any method or routine you have adopted for your current coaching style?

Klinsmann: You learn something new every day. My coaches came from all sorts of backgrounds: Cesar Luis Menotti, Arsène Wenger, Berti Vogts, Giovanni Trappatoni, Arie Haan, Otto Rehhagel and many others. To some degree or other, each of them has given me something that I use for my own work today. The thing is – when we took over in 2004, we were under immense time pressure. We had less than two years time to build up a German team for which failure at the World Cup – on home turf! – would have been a major disaster.

Löw: Modern coaching means being open for new developments at all times, and that includes calling into question whatever seems to be working out just fine at the moment. The guiding thought is – what can we do to make players better, to enable them to make another step forward. And yes, I do use elements of Jürgen’s ideas of leadership in my own work. Including those emotional team talks?

Löw: Well, post-2006 there hasn’t been any opportunity for me to prove that in public, has there? (laughs) Suffice it to say I can raise my voice, too! The important thing is for a coach to remain authentic. Players realise in an instant whether you’re just pretending, or whether you really mean what you say or do. I have my own style. Jürgen, the German national team has always featured some pretty good players, but when you were coach there was no Mesut Özil, Marco Reus, Mario Götze, or Julian Draxler around. Are you not a little envious of the talent pool Joachim Löw can draw on?

Klinsmann: No, envy doesn’t come into it! I’m really glad for Jogi Löw and for all those who’ve done their bit to make this happen for German football. I’m not one for playing “what ifs or could’ves”. Jogi has his players, I have mine, and we both do our level best to get the most out of them. Was this development foreseeable back in 2006?

Klinsmann: Not really. But what that World Cup did was present German football in a much more positive, forward-oriented light, which created a whole new football craze, and that led to the game being given a much higher status, even socially speaking. Maybe that contributed to a development that gained further momentum by the work done at the DFB and the club youth academies. Jogi, how much Klinsmann is there left in your team?

Löw: You don’t really ask for a percentage value, do you? The key factor is that Jürgen had the courage to demand and effect change. And we all followed him down that route. If German football today is different from what it was 10 or 15 years ago, then much of the credit is due to Jürgen. We wanted players to go beyond the “typically German” virtues of stamina and never-say-die attitude. We wanted them to also show dynamic, one-touch, and goal-hungry football with a different culture. Jürgen, when you became German head coach, you implemented quite a few changes. And while there are surely many differences between football in Germany and the U.S., is there anything they have in common?

Klinsmann: Yes and No. Every job has its own special challenges you have to tackle. There is no way any coach can apply his core set of methods, let alone answers, to a new task he’s given. In Germany, my biggest problem was time. Here, I have different challenges to respond to. Joachim, this German squad is a blend of established players, returnees, and newcomers, with several regulars missing on account of Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund playing the Champions League final…

Löw: True enough, but that’s also a great opportunity for the team to develop further. Thanks to this trip being scheduled relatively early, all national team players can now enjoy a nice, long summer break before they join their clubs’ pre-season training. And secondly, I want to see a few new players in action, gauge how they present themselves in a national team environment, and check whether or not they have it in them to leave their mark. Julian Draxler, André Schürrle, Benedikt Höwedes, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker, and René Adler are all key players for their respective clubs and are now called upon to assume leadership functions. The players I’ve called up are proud and happy to be here. This was evident in the match against Ecuador, and I’m sure they will demonstrate that again on Sunday against the USA. Jürgen, there was a major debate in Germany about the timing of this tour and the unusual squad. Was this an issue at all over here?

Klinsmann: Well, obviously a whole lot of fans would have loved to see Özil, Reus, or Götze play. But generally speaking, the German national team is held in high esteem not just in the U.S. but world-wide. It’s an open secret Germany meet the highest technical requirements, show fast and attractive football, and are great fun to watch, plain and simple. Not in vain do they occupy second place in the FIFA world ranking. This fixture is a fantastic event and a more than appropriate way to celebrate the national association’s centenary – and for me it’s a welcome opportunity to try out a few things ahead of three important qualifiers. You will have heard about the criticism levelled at Joachim Löw after Germany’s defeat in the EURO semi-finals, and after that 4-4 draw against Sweden?

Klinsmann: Of course, but you shouldn’t take it too seriously. I mean, something like the Sweden game, with all its twists and turns, comes along only once every ten years or so. Isn’t that what makes the game so fascinating? Using this to chip away at any coach’s work, is absolutely out of order! Germany hadn’t lost the match, the crowd had witnessed a night to remember, and both coaches now know what they’ve got to work on in future. There is nothing in football that can guarantee you a win, not against Sweden or any other side… Is life as football coach in the U.S. any quieter? How did the national media deal with the “launch failure” of your qualifying campaign?

Klinsmann: Well, when it comes to criticising defeats, like our 1-2 setback against Honduras, the media here are catching up fast! But on the whole, it’s a quieter life, which is also owed to the Americans’ general attitude to sport. But that doesn’t alter anything in how committedly players and coaches do their jobs. And your qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil?

Klinsmann: We’re optimistic, but again, you can’t take anything for granted. Let me say that playing abroad to Guatemala, Jamaica, Costa Rica, or Mexico is always a very special challenge for our team. Sadly, our slip-up against Honduras proved that yet again. But since then, we clinched a point from Mexico (0-0), which has put us back on track. Joachim, would the USA be worthy competitor at a World Cup?

Löw: Of course! You underestimate any team qualifying for the tournament at your peril. But let’s not talk about next year just yet. Let both of our teams secure their berths first, then we can talk about Brazil 2014. Finally, what can we expect from the game on Sunday?

Klinsmann: An interesting fixture featuring interesting players. We, too, have a few players missing, some will be arriving late, such as Hoffenheim’s Fabian Johnson and Daniel Williams. We’re greatly looking forward to the match.

Löw: So do we! We’re well prepared and have immensely enjoyed this country’s hospitality. It’s an honour for the DFB and our team to have been invited to the US Soccer Federation’s centenary celebrations. And I think I’ll be enjoying standing on the sideline together with Jürgen, even as rivals. And much as we love being good guests, we won’t have any gifts to give on the pitch! We’ll come out of that dressing room to perform as best we can.

Find more great coverage on the happenings and history of the German national team at

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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