The eternal Miro – The story of an unlikely career

One can’t help but be impressed if one takes a closer look at Miroslav Klose’s stats. The 35-year-old has scored 121 goals in 307 Bundesliga appearances, he has gotten on the score sheet a total of 68 times during his 131 matches for the national team and after moving to Italy at the age of 32, he managed to score 43 goals in his 78 matches in Serie A. And still he wants to keep going for another couple of seasons (at least). Those numbers alone may make him one of German football’s legends after he has retired, however, they are even more impressive if one takes a closer look at how Klose’s career started.

At the age of 16 the striker’s career seemed to be over, after he had been sent back home after the first day of a talent sighting at the sports school Edenbach. If a talent is ignored at that age, it becomes notoriously difficult and unlikely to make a breakthrough into professional football. Klose had to persevere at SG Blaubach-Diedelbach for the time being, before he finally got a move to former Bundesliga club FC Homburg in 1998. The third tier side initially used him on their second team (which played in the fifth tier at the time) before they chose to move Klose to their first team squad. One of the factors playing into this decision were the financial troubles facing Homburg at the time, which forced the team to move some of their more talented players from the second team into their senior squad.

From the fifth tier to the national team

Only one year later Klose earned a move to 1. FC Kaiserslautern’s second team. Back in 1999 the youth craze hadn’t hit Germany, and second team players were unlikely to be considered for the senior squads of Bundesliga teams. The Red Devil’s second team coach Michael Dusek had spotted something special in Klose though, and he wasn’t tired to tell Otto Rehhagel over and over again about this one talented players of his. After having seen Klose in action the coaching legend gushed:

Finally, Klose is a player who can combine. His technique is very good.

Reflecting back on his career, Klose told 11 Freunde in 2012 that he was lucky to make the step up to Kaiserslautern’s first team:

I have had the good fortune of having played for coaches who were really into me.

Rehhagel’s successors Andreas Brehme and Reinhard Stumpf chose to move Klose from a midfield position to the front, which was probably one of their few good decisions whilst they were in charge at the Betzenberg. Klose started 25 of the 29 matches he during that 2000/2001 campaign, scoring 9 goals.

The striker, who had been in the stands of the Betzenberg just one year earlier wearing a Olaf Marschall jersey, started to make headlines in his first full Bundesliga season. Pressed for good attacking options, national team coach Rudi Völler decided to call up Miroslav Klose to the senior national team squad ahead of their World Cup qualifying match against Albania back in March 2001. Only seven years earlier Klose had been sent home from a talent sighting, three years ago he had played in the Bezirksliga, and now he was one of the few bright prospects who could potentially help the national team in its quest to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.

The German national team under Völler often had a tough time breaking weaker opponents down, and this night was no different. Albania had equalised after Sebastian Deisler’s opener, and Völler was now looking to the bench to find a spark of inspiration. The 23-year-old Miro Klose was subbed onto the pitch for Oliver Neuville in the hopes of bringing a breath of fresh air to the German attack.

Two minutes before the final whistle the tabloid writers had to change their headlines. Germany had been once again been edging close to a disaster, but when Albania’s keeper Foto Strakosha only managed to palm a Carsten Jancker header into the path of Miro Klose, Germany had suddenly managed to get the decisive goal after all.

Klose’s first goal for the national team can be seen after 2 minutes and 39 seconds of this video clip.

After the match the shy Klose told the press that this “couldn’t be topped”, whilst Rudi Völler compared Klose to one of the greats of German football – himself – and the tabloids had found a new star they could write about. Kaiserslautern president Jürgen Friedrich exclaimed that he had never seen a player develop this quickly during his 40 years in football.

Klose kept producing the goods up front together with his striking partner Vratislav Lokvenc, scoring 16 goals in his second season in the Bundesliga. The Red Devils financial troubles at the turn of the century came back to haunt them on the pitch after a while, but Klose managed to score 9 and 10 goals in the following two seasons.

Development at Werder Bremen

At the start of the 2004/05 Klose joined Werder Bremen on a four-year deal, replacing the Green and Whites star striker Ailton who had joined Schalke 04. After a bumpy start the striker found his form on match day 6, when he was subbed onto the pitch at half time and went onto score his first hat trick in the Bundesliga against VfL Bochum. Klose went onto score a total of 53 goals during his 89 appearances for the club.

This has to this day been Klose’s best strike out of all the clubs he has been playing for. But, more importantly, his game developed into a new direction under Thomas Schaaf. Before his move to Werder Klose was renown for his headers and to be a striker mostly finishing off moves. However, Schaaf demanded a bit more of his strikers, Klose told 11 Freunde:

I developed into a striker who was joining the build up game only after I had moved to Bremen.

Fulfilling these new requirements has helped Klose keep his place in the German national team. These days the DFB chief scout Urs Siegenthaler refers to Klose as a ‘wall’ – nowadays he is the sort of player who occupies the space between the opponent’s defence and midfield, keeping the ball and allowing German midfielders to join an attacking move, or Klose can quickly pass the ball along speeding up the attack.

Keeping up with the national team

Klose hasn’t lost the skill set which made him a national team player in the first place. His good performances for Die Nationalmannschaft and his professionalism has made Klose one of Jogi Löw’s favourite players over the years. The national team coach has stuck by him, even if Klose was heavily criticised by the media ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

It’s interesting to see how Klose and the national team have developed over the years. Under Rudi Völler the national team’s tactics and game plan were often times left to coincidence if Philipp Lahm’s autobiography is to be believed. During the 13 years Klose has spent with the national team the playing style of the team has developed from being hard to watch to something delightful and cultured at the best of times. It was hard to believe at the time, but the German national team was slowly about to change at the start of Klose’s career as he pointed out in 11 Freunde:

When I made my first appearance back in 2001 Jens Jeremies and Carsten Ramelow were still playing. After a while the likes of Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger came into the team. And now there is another wave of young players coming in.

The change which slowly started under Völler, was perpetuated under Jurgen Klinsmann and then Löw. Germany have gone from being a sleeping giant at the turn of the century to again being among the favourites to win trophies. Klose himself sees a clear difference in the way the German national team plays these days compared to the past, he told 11 Freunde:

The team is more flexible these days. We are able to play different systems. Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil have a variable skill set. And I myself have also undergone a development.

Chasing Ronaldo and Gerd Müller

The aforementioned progression has helped Klose to make the final squad of the German national team for the last three Euros and World Cups. Klose has been a prolific scorer first and foremost at the World Cup, having scored 14 goals during the tournaments in Japan and South Korea, Germany and South Africa (he has scored 3 goals in 13 matches during the last three EUROs).

Despite being injured at the moment it seems likely that the current Lazio player is going to make the final cut when Jogi Löw selects his team at the end of next month. If he is included, Klose will become the 6th German player to go to four or more World Cups (Lotthar Matthäus has been at five, Sepp Maier, Oliver Kahn, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger and Uwe Seeler have been to four tournaments).

Furthermore, his time in Brazil could see the striker establish a couple of new records. At the moment Klose is tied with Gerd Müller for most goals scored at the World Cup for Germany and the most goals scored in total for Die Nationalmannschaft. The overall top scorer at World Cups is currently the Brazilian Ronaldo, who has gotten on the score sheet on 15 occasions, only one goal ahead of Klose (and Müller). The striker has stated numerous times that he doesn’t want to be compared with Müller, but he is gunning for the title of being the most scoring player at World Cups:

This is one of my goals and a nice incentive. It’s really close now. But, what the team is doing is more important. I know that I’ll have my chances in front of goal if we are playing good football, and it doesn’t matter if I’m starting or coming off the bench. I can always be a threat. The most important thing remains the team.

Here are all of Klose’s 14 goals at World Cups.

Klose is going to retire from the German national team after the World Cup in Brazil. There wouldn’t be any better way to finish his career for Die Nationalmannschaft than overtaking Müller in the all time top scorers list for the German national team and breaking the record which was set by great Ronaldo. Fans of the German national team’s fans would be overjoyed for the Polish-born Klose, who arrived in Germany at the age of 9 and who at first learned most of his German on the football pitch. Almost precisely 20 years ago Miroslav Klose’s career seemed to be over before it had started, but now he has the chance to write a massive chapter of German football history at World Cup in Brazil.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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