Amidst the blinding effects of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal scoring exploits, Javier Hernandez’s sudden rise as one of the best super-subs at United since the days of Ole Gunnar Solskjær and Milan’s fall from grace among other things, somewhere one man seems to have missed out on his fair share of publicity from all footballing circles as he goes about doing his job silently stamping his prominence in the city of Rome week after week since his arrival at Lazio last season.
Yes, in fine form for the Roman club and getting his fair share of respect and love from the Biancocelesti faithful at the Olimpico, Miroslav Klose at 34 is only getter better with age just like a bottle of vintage wine in your repertoire.
Having established himself at 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Werder Bremen before moving south to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich the German striker was always branded as a player who never really established himself at club-level despite performing to the contrary with the national team. Much of what he achieved at Bremen came during a period when the Bundesliga was still in transition, unlike today, and though he started brightly with the Bavarians, the arrival of Mario Gomez coupled with his recurring injury problems through to his last couple of seasons at the Allianz Arena almost pushed one of Germany’s greatest ever strikers into obscurity.
Available for free in June of last year after failed negotiations at Bayern and in came Lazio with a project that in a way suited both parties. Still capable of delivering at the highest level -- his exploits with Die Mannschaft despite the presence of an in-form Mario Gomez proving exactly that – the Polish born striker needed to feel important again while Edy Reja’s side looked to continue on their surge in Italy having missed out on a Champions League spot by a whisker the previous season.
Well, in his first season prior to this summer in the famous blue strip, the Aquile did finish fourth ahead of Napoli, Inter and bitter city rivals Roma but yet again missed out on the biggest club competition in Europe as the Serie A had surrendered that spot to the Bundesliga thanks to its declining co-efficient points in the continent. However, in Klose, Lazio found one of the game’s most clinical and truest finishers who did not waste much time settling into the more tactically competent surroundings of the Italian league.While former manager Edy Reja deserves all plaudits for Lazio’s turnaround over the last few years along with the midfield mastery of Andre Hernanes, it was Klose who delivered at the foremost end of the opposition’s half scoring important goals at regular intervals all throughout last season with 13 goals and 7 assists in 26 starts until his exploits were halted by an injury which almost put his participation in this summer’s European Championships with Germany in jeopardy. Add to that his tally of 3 goals and 3 assists in the Europa League to cap off an impressive first season in Rome with 16 goals and 10 assists in 35 appearances in all for the club.
Edy Reja may have quit the project letting Vladimir Petkovic to take over from where he left last season and while the new man on the bench continues to impress this season as Lazio find themselves hovering around the big boys of the Serie A, once again its Klose he has much to thank for as the German has started off in an even better fashion this time around having already amassed 7 goals in 11 games as the club lag behind table toppers Juventus by 9 points ahead of a head on clash in Turin this weekend, which provides them with an opportunity to cut it down to a mere 6.
MIROSLAV KLOSE | LAZIO STATS SINCE 2011-12
What’s even more encouraging for the fans is the fact that Lazio have never lost whenever he has scored, much like an incentive to the faithful to spurn him on every time he steps onto the field. That they have not lost a single derby in three since his arrival is also down to the fact that Klose has either scored or assisted in each one of these city derbies against their fiercest rivals adding to the tally last week as Lazio once again stomped their authority over the city of Roma coming out as victors yet again from the Olimpico.
A total of 24 goals in 49 games for the Italian club since his arrival last summer in humble circumstances in the Serie A is no mean feat.
Joint second to Ronaldo alongside German legend Gerd Muller with 14 World Cup goals to his name, Klose is the only player to have scored at least five goals in consecutive World Cups, as well as the only player to have scored at least four in three different tournaments and he is not done yet with his career in German colours. Despite being second choice to former Bayern teammate Mario Gomez, who scored 45 goals last season, Klose still managed to come second to Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar with 9 goals from 6 games averaging a goal every 56 minutes as Joachim Löw’s side qualified for this summer’s championship with the maximum possible points.
Deemed finished after every successful tournament outing with the national team thanks to the emergence of Gomez, Klose recovered in time for the Euros giving his colleague a run for his money as he was favoured to start in the crucial quarter-final clash against Greece, in which he did not fail to score repaying his coach’s undying faith in him. Despite coming on as a second half substitute in the semi-final loss to Italy, few argued if the Germans looked more vibrant and likely to score with him on the field rather than the ailing Gomez who has often shied away on big occasions.
Such is his persona on the field even at this age that in the absence of Gomez, who has been injured all throughout this season, Klose has been handed over the job once again by Löw to lead the team towards a successful qualifying campaign for the World Cup scheduled to be held in Brazil in less than two years’ time. The decision hasn’t backfired as his three goals in 4 games has helped Germany stay top of the tables ahead of Sweden and it would be interesting to see whether Mario will be able to displace this man who seems to be in no mood to be cast aside at the moment.
|Klose (R) coming on for Gomez (L) | Neck to neck with Gomez even at the age of 34|
Behind the well chiseled body of an athlete, lies a man who has always been known to have a thing or two for fair play on the field. Who can forget the match against Arminia Biefield back in 2005, when having been awarded a penalty by the referee for an apparent foul by the Die Blauen goalkeeper, Klose very honestly had the decision overturned after admitting to the man in charge that the goalkeeper had already collected the ball before he had fallen. Not much has changed since then as a couple of months ago in September of this year, Klose scored his very own version of the famous (rather infamous) ‘hand of God’ goal against Napoli which was taken back after the German once again decided to admit to his act leading to much acclaim from the home crowd away at the San Paolo in Naples, ironically the same city where a certain Diego Maradona is revered to as God by the fans.
His fine form with Lazio hadn’t gone unnoticed in the transfer market this summer, and Andre Villas-Boas in desperate search of a striker tried his best to sway the German to the more lucrative and glamorous surroundings of the White Hart Lane in London. But a man of his word, and always a gentleman off the field as he is on it, Klose humbly rejected the offer to honour his contract in Rome and show his commitment towards a project that gave him a reason to believe in the game once again last season.
While others at his age are either going to the rich pastures in China or the Middle East, he still continues to get better thanks to his insatiable hunger for the game and his constant belief in improving come what may. Two years from now, should Germany qualify for the showpiece in Brazil (which they should barring a catastrophe) it won’t be surprising to find him amongst the regulars vested with the responsibility of finally winning Germany the ultimate footballing prize that has eluded them thrice over the last three editions. He is one shy of the great Ronaldo’s goal scoring record but that’s a thing for the future.
For now, as one of the most professional and underrated strikers in the world, Klose deserves much plaudit for his growing form as he concentrates towards helping Lazio get back to the pinnacle of their game and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
He may never win anything with his current club but for silently going about doing his job, he is already a winner.
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