Jurgen Klinsmann drove into White Hart Lane in the summer of 1994 not in a Ferrari or a Porsche, but in a Volkswagen Beetle. It was indicative of the complexities of the man that world cup winner Klinsmann should introduce himself to English football in such an atypically modest fashion. The signing of the German international was a huge coup for Tottenham. During what were still the fledgling days of the Premier League Klinsmann, along with Ruud Gullit, was one of the first genuine foreign football superstars to arrive on these shores.
Moreover, unlike the ancient Gullit, Klinsmann, at 30, was very much at his peak when he came to North London for a cut-price £2 million from Monaco. His Spurs debut, away at Sheffield Wednesday, followed the “dream debut” script to the letter. In the 86th minute of an absorbing game, with the scores at 3-3, the German launched himself at a right wing cross and buried a header to win the game. He celebrated in style with an exaggerated belly flop, a comical riposte to those detractors who paid more attention to his penchant for theatrical diving than his goal scoring prowess.
One of the attributes which set Klinsmann apart from other strikers was his movement. He was in possession of a first rate football brain which always seemed to ensure that he was one step ahead of his marker. He had a knack for anticipating where every pass would be played and where every loose ball would land. With a simple side step or sudden burst of electric pace, Klinsmann could also make that extra half yard of room for himself – and that was all he ever needed. Witness that debut goal at Hillsborough, how he effortlessly peels away from Des Walker, making a fool of one of the best defenders in England at that time, giving himself the space to plant that unstoppable header.
Tottenham got off to a poor start in 1994/95, costing manager Ossie Ardiles his job in the process. However, their fortunes improved under new boss Gerry Francis and Klinsmann, their model of consistency, fired 29 goals to lead them to a seventh placed finish and an FA Cup semi-final. He was rewarded by being voted the Football Writers’ Player of the Year. This would be the last season to date that Spurs would finish above rivals Arsenal in the table. The German marksman’s goals came in all varieties. Deadly in the air or on the deck, inside the box or outside, he also had an eye for the spectacular and his expert technique meant anything was possible – watch the sheer velocity he puts on this perfect overhead volley.
There hasn’t been a more instinctive finisher in Premier League history than Jurgen Klinsmann. Even during an ill-fated return to Spurs in 1997/98, showing his age at 33 and plagued by injury, he managed nine goals in 15 games to save the Cockerels from relegation. A four-goal salvo away at Wimbledon in April showed that while he’d lost much of the pace that made him such a menace to defences, his predatory nature was as sharp as ever and he retained the ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s time in the Premier League was akin to a shooting star – burning briefly but brightly. He was only around for two short spells, a season at his peak in 1994/95 and for another six months as a veteran in 1997/98. During that time he showed his volatile side in managing to fall out with both the chairman – Alan Sugar, bitter at the abrupt exit of his chief asset in 1995 claimed that he wouldn’t even use Klinsmann’s shirt to wash his car – and managers (he nearly came to blows with Christian Gross during a row in the tunnel against Bolton in 1998). However, he also showed why he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest goalscorers of the modern game. He was everything the quintessential striker should be – consistent, versatile, exciting, – virtually impossible to defend against. 1994/95 was the season of Cantona’s kung-fu, of shattered transfer records and new Premier League champions – but the crowning glory was that tantalising glimpse of Teutonic talent.
Name Jurgen Klinsmann
Age 45 (30/07/64)
Clubs Stuttgart, Inter, Monaco, Tottenham, Bayern Munich, Sampdoria,
Orange County Blue Star
Club Level Honours Bundesliga, UEFA Cup, Supercoppa Italiana