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The veteran's surprise resurgence in Italy has silenced his doubters, and speaks well for his international future

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By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Given the dominance of club football over the international game in recent years, many national team heroes have gone under-appreciated. While the class of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo is undisputed in spite of their relative struggles on the international stage, the calibre of others, who have been ordinary at club level but consistently brilliant for country, is readily scrutinised.

Consider Miroslav Klose, who before the current season had scored just 11 goals in the previous two years for Bayern Munich, and has, accordingly, rarely been mentioned in the discussion of elite centre-forwards. Despite his struggles in Bavaria, this is the same Klose who has managed to find the net 14 times in his last 19 appearances for Germany. Amid a long list of 'club players', he is a rarity, a 'national team player' capable of consistently giving his best performances for country, even if he is by no means a stand-out man for his club.

GERMANY TOP SCORERS
Name
Gerd Muller
Miroslav Klose
Jurgen Klinsmann
Rudi Voller
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Goals
68
62
47
47
45
Caps
62
112
108
90
95
But times - and reputations - are changing. At 33-years-old, the veteran is in the midst of a resurgence of club form that was entirely unanticipated. Since joining Lazio in the summer, he has managed to score five goals and provide as many assists in his first seven appearances. These are tremendous statistics, especially given that he was written off as a club player not too long ago.

The sceptics may contend that Klose’s record speaks more of the possible decline of Serie A than his form, but it is hard to objectively deny that the 112-times capped Germany international is playing with a hunger that has not been seen on a week in, week out basis for years. Quite clearly, Klose is a man with something to prove. With every drive there is an underlying reason, and in his case, a number of factors have contributed to his brilliant start at Lazio.

Early in the summer, Bayern refused to offer anything more than a one-year contract extension due to Klose's age. In September, Germany coach Joachim Low declared that Klose and Mario Gomez were on the same level, suggesting that the latter might be able to earn a starting role for his country before Euro 2012. And, considering the sharp downturn of the ageing Didier Drogba, Diego Forlan and Diego Milito over the last 12 months, it is perhaps understandable that Klose's long-term value has been doubted. There comes a time in every player’s career at which he declines, never again to reach his previous heights; Klose knows this well enough, having recently seen Michael Ballack turn from captain and national legend to under-appreciated international outcast in a matter of months.

"Between Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez there is now a competition among equals."

                                                  - Joachim Low

Amid adversity in the form of his naysayers, as well as his ever-increasing age, Klose has put his best foot forward and impressed even the most ardent critics. Though never the fastest of strikers, the veteran has not yet lost his pace or quickness, a testament to his work ethic in training. And with the added concern over his international future, Klose’s instincts are as sharp as ever. Even when he has not played well overall, his tenacity and smart running have eventually resulted in goals.

"Klose has so far revelled in the responsibility of being Lazio's go-to striker, especially when given that extra bit of space away from home when opponents have looked to turn their eye to attack more often, as evidenced by his goals in four successive away trips. His ability to hold the ball and link in team-mates, plus his knack of keeping his marker honest for a full 90 minutes, has been of huge importance to the Biancocelesti thus far."

                  - Kris Voakes, Goal.com Italian Football Editor

No longer able to ride the bench at club level and assume the security of his role for Germany, Klose’s form for Lazio is a signal of his intent to contribute to a Germany side that, as he recently admitted, is better now than it has ever been during his career. He is currently just six strikes behind Gerd Muller’s scoring record for country, and still has yet to win a major international trophy: both goals are potentially months away, as is in all likelihood the end of his Germany career.

Miroslav Klose | Career Club Stats
Season Club Games
Goals Season Club Games Goals
1999-00 Kaiserslautern 2 0 2007-08 Bayern Munich 47 21
2000-01 Kaiserslautern 45 11 2008-09 Bayern Munich 38 20
2001-02 Kaiserslautern 35 16 2009-10 Bayern Munich 38 6
2002-03 Kaiserslautern 36 13 2010-11 Bayern Munich 26 5
2003-04 Kaiserslautern 29 12 2011-12 Lazio 7 5
2004-05 Werder Bremen 45 17 Career Total Games: 435 Goals: 172
2005-06 Werder Bremen 40 31
2006-07 Werder Bremen 47 15

It is, perhaps, a bit of a gamble for a 33-year-old to work so hard over the course of a season with a gruelling summer tournament ahead of him. The risk is increased given that Klose is used to having a winter break, and that he has not been a regular starter since 2008-09. Injury and fatigue can be cruel to footballers, and time will tell whether Klose's personal international career benefits from his new-found club form. But for Germany, it's a win-win situation: the competition between Klose and Gomez can take both forwards to new heights.

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