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Ex-USMNT coach Klinsmann has chance to get back on track with Hertha

10:00 GMT+3 28/11/2019
Jurgen Klinsmann Hertha Berlin 2019
His time with U.S Soccer may have ended a failure but the legendary striker has the chance to correct his reputation at Bundesliga strugglers Berlin

Jurgen Klinsmann's managerial CV lists an impressive resume of teams: Germany, Bayern Munich, U.S. national team and now Hertha Berlin. Read backwards, it could seem like the dream career trajectory of any manager. Starting out at a top-flight club in your homeland, you then take a glamorous international job and head back home for a stint at the best team in your own country. The pinnacle is managing a world class football nation you represented over 100 times.

But the former Germany striker is doing the sequence in reverse having suffered a number of reputational blows along the way and now finds himself tasked with saving Hertha Berlin after a disastrous start to the Bundesliga season under club legend Ante Covic.

Klinsmann takes charge in Germany's capital until the end of the campaign, having joined the club's board just a few weeks ago. It is his first coaching role in three years, having been sacked as USMNT boss in November 2016, just two games into the Hexagonal round of their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Ultimately, the USMNT failed to reach Russia under successor Bruce Arena, losing 2-1 in their final group game against Trinidad & Tobago to finish fifth in the CONCACAF qualification table, but Klinsmann felt the decision to sack him was far too hasty as he could have guided them to the World Cup.

"I had no doubt that we would have qualified for the World Cup in Russia, but the federation made their own decision in November 2016," Klinsmann told Goal

"Everyone couldn’t believe it that the team lost in Trinidad & Tobago. It was a huge disappointment for everyone involved in soccer in the United States, including myself."

Klinsmann's sacking was the end of a long spell in charge of the USMNT, with whom he lifted the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2013 and reached the knockout stage of the 2014 World Cup despite being drawn against European giants Germany and Portugal.

"I had a great time with U.S. Soccer over five-and-a-half years," he continued. 

"Getting out of the group of death in Brazil in 2014, competing against Portugal, Ghana, and Germany, then getting into the semi-finals in 2016 at the Copa America was very exciting."

But one of the big criticisms levelled at Klinsmann by successor Arena was that the German had no rhyme or reason to his squad decisions and that he did not stick to the same tried-and-tested players in each game.

"One of the things that was confusing as I came in and evaluated the rosters was there was just too many players called in for whatever reason from everywhere and no consistency," Arena told Goal.

This was seen as a failing by many who follow U.S. soccer, especially the decision in 2014 to leave the country's all-time top scorer Landon Donovan out of the World Cup squad, just a year after he had won the Gold Cup Golden Ball.

Klinsmann's performance-over-reputation approach was even evident during his two-year tenure as Germany head coach, rotating senior goalkeeper Oliver Kahn with Jens Lehmann before finally choosing the Arsenal stopper as his number one for the 2006 World Cup. Germany finished third having lost in the semi-finals in extra time against eventual winners Italy.

While this tendency was criticised in the past, it could be hugely beneficial in Berlin, where it will help Hertha to get things back on track.

The 55-year-old manager will have no time for under-performing veterans and will seek to give game-time to Hertha's young talent where possible. He will also be unafraid to make the difficult decisions of dropping senior players for their mistakes - something which was sadly absent under Covic. He had been part of the furniture at the club for the past 16 years, first as a player, then a youth and reserve coach before finally taking the top job.

While Germany boss, Klinsmann modernised coaching methods, including bringing in sports psychologists, nutritionists and experts from other fields and sports to help with training, but his strict approach did not work at Bayern Munich where the player personalities are often bigger than the coach.

The most infamous change Klinsmann made at Bayern was the placement of Buddha statues around the training complex, tying in with his introduction of a quiet room in his attempt to revolutionise life on the campus. That was seen as a step too far by many notable Bavarians, with politicians and religious leaders criticising the statues, while Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto said they were nothing more than an unnecessary distraction: "I already have my faith."

Bayern Munich were not ready or willing to accept Klinsmann's drastic changes which were slammed as an attempt to 'Americanise' German football. He lasted just 10 months in Bavaria.

The criticism only made him more determined to succeed, something he initially did with the U.S. national team, qualifying from the most difficult World Cup group they had ever been drawn in. He did not get the chance to see out his final campaign, which ultimately proved a failure even without the German in the dugout, but that setback also will not haunt him.

"Americans don’t give up. If they fall, they dust themselves off and get back up," Klinsmann told the New Yorker. “Germans might say that I failed with Bayern. But that’s not how Americans think.”

While coaching a USMNT training session before a friendly in Scotland, Klinsmann was seen to erupt at his players for not giving their all during a training drill. Assistant coach Andreas Herzog later explained to the New York Times: "You know what that is? That is Jurgen being German.”

Hertha Berlin offers Klinsmann a new chance to reboot his resume, to succeed at club football, and having attempted to Germanise U.S. soccer, it's a second chance for him to Americanise the German game.