Jürgen Klinsmann (55) won the World Cup in Italy as a player in 1990. At EURO ’96 in England, he led Germany to another title as captain. Ten years later, he inspired a nation as DFB head coach when Germany hosted the World Cup. On Monday night, he led the DFB All Stars out onto the pitch as captain in their inaugural game against the Azzurri Legends (3-3). We spoke to the Klinsmann about the evening in Fürth and a potential for more legends games.
DFB.de: Mr. Klinsmann, you were on board with the DFB All Stars from the get-go. Why do you think such games involving legend teams are so beneficial to the DFB and football in general?
Jürgen Klinsmann: For two or three years now, legend teams have been formed at club level to play against each other. I’ve taken part in them as well for Tottenham and Inter – they are always special occasions. The basic concept is just really good: Games like this bring different generations of players together. They also bring the fans together – fans that used to watch these players, suffer with them, celebrate with them. Aside from that, we always say that football is for everyone: For professionals and amateurs, for old and young. In reality, this isn’t always true for most professionals: Once they’re old, they not only retire as professionals, but most don’t play football at all anymore. That’s why I think it’s nice that the DFB, in cooperation with Italy, has embraced this initiative and that’s why I enjoyed the evening in Fürth so much.
DFB.de: Now the game has been played and you led the team out as captain. How would you summarise the first ever DFB All Stars game?
Klinsmann: The game was everything we had hoped for and above all it was just really enjoyable. This isn’t just a case of two birds with one stone – we have achieved so much more: We’ve brought players back together, multiple generations of players. We’re also bringing them closer to the DFB again, to their parent association. For the fans as well – for the fans this is just another thing to enjoy. For us, it was nice to see how strong the identity still is – there is a connection that goes beyond what happens on the pitch. The players are associated with certain historical highlights which has given the fans some unforgettable experiences. Whether someone was lucky enough to be there for the 1990 World Cup win, whether they were at the pub for one of the games in 2006 or whether they were in their living room in 2014 – countless fans have different personal connections to certain groups of players. If that encouraged people to attend the All Stars game and take their son, daughter or grandchild with them, then the game was already a success.
DFB.de: How about the game itself – what did you make of the 3-3 draw against the Azzurri Legends?
Klinsmann: Obviously this was first and foremost about having fun, but everyone who was out on the pitch wanted to win. That is exactly why they were all once professional footballers, because they are ambitious and they cannot stand losing games. None of us will ever lose this drive and motivation – it is a part of us.
DFB.de: Philipp Wollscheid scored the equaliser with the last kick of the game. How important was that for your overall verdict on the game?
Klinsmann: Even without the equaliser it would have been a brilliant evening, but that just fit the script perfectly. I was also happy for Philipp – his youth and all-round ability really helped our team. The game ending in a draw was a real bonus. I don’t think there was anybody who left the ground disappointed.
DFB.de: Was there any player you were particularly impressed by?
Klinsmann: Cannavaro was good, that guy is simply fascinating – solid as a rock. Pirlo as well, the way conducts play, calmly and with ease. They are excellent footballers. Not forgetting Totti of course – when he pulls out the tricks or opens up play with his diagonal passes it’s a joy to watch, even today.
DFB.de: Anyone for the DFB All Stars?
Klinsmann: We also have a whole host of players who are still astonishingly capable. From a managerial perspective, it was nice to see my lads from 2006 again. David Odonkor was running up and down the wing nonstop, he’s almost quicker than he was back then, Oliver Neuville as well, he’s got some energy let me tell you. I kept thinking, that’s it for him now, he’s dead, and then two seconds later he’s sprinting again, insane. In general, the way everyone threw themselves at the game was class. I could name everyone, Michael Schulz perhaps above all, but basically everyone. You got the impression that everyone out there is starting to know their boundaries and really wanted to push them. A lot of us will be sore for a few days now, but nobody will regret it.
DFB.de: Do you see a future for All-Star games? Was this a one off?
Klinsmann: For me, All Stars games could be a new step for Internationals club. I can imagine a number of formats: Four nation tournaments, mini European championships. Golf especially, but also tennis have remarkably successful senior tours. Why could something similar not work in football as well? Maybe one day people will say that the game against the Azzurri Legends was the first step towards something like that. The game against the Azzurri Legends screams out for a sequel. I speak for all the players involved when I say that it was an absolute pleasure! Everyone would do it again!