Klinsmann understands, brushes off Lahm criticism

MANHATTAN BEACH -- Jurgen Klinsmann has heard the criticism thrown his way by Philipp Lahm, and the new U.S. coach says he understands the German defender's sensibilities, even if what has been said misses the point.

Lahm, a star outside back for Bayern Munich and Germany's national team, lashed at Klinsmann and two more of his former coaches, former Germany coach (and forward, before that) Rudi Völler and ex-Bayern boss Felix Magath, in his autobiography The Subtle Difference, which was released Monday in Germany. The German tabloid Bild has been printing excerpts, and they've caused an uproar.

Lahm calls Klinsmann tactically inept and writes that “the experiment with Klinsmann [at Bayern] was a failure. We were only working on our fitness in training. He didn't care much for tactical stuff. It was up to the players to come together before a match and discuss how we were going to play.

“'All the players knew after about eight weeks that it was not going to work out with Klinsmann. The remainder of that campaign was nothing but limiting the damage.”

Lahm, who captains Germany and Bayern, has been called in for discussions with the Deutscher Fussball-Bund, Germany's soccer federation, and apologized last week on the DFB's website: “I certainly did not want to personally insult or slander in any way Rudi Völler, Juergen Klinsmann and other people. I apologize. For misunderstandings that have arisen in this way, I hereby apologize to all those involved.”

Klinsmann, a legendary forward who played in three World Cups (winning with West Germany in 1990), told a group from L.A.'s soccer media Monday that Lahm's comments were uneducated but understandable.

“It's basically a player's perspective that never has the coaching perspective,” said Klinsmann, who has called Orange County home since 1998. “He doesn't see the big picture, what actually the work of a coach means. In many different elements. ... As a player, there's no perfect coach to you. And as a coach, there's never a perfect, perfect player. And it's just normal.

“I had wonderful coaches throughout my career, from an [Arsene] Wenger [at AS Monaco] to a [Cesar Luis] Menotti [at Sampdoria] to a [Franz] Beckenbauer [with West Germany's champs and at Bayern] to a [Berti] Vogts [with Germany's national team] to [Ossie] Ardilles [at Tottenham and Giovanni] Trapattoni [with Bayern] -- they've won everything. I am so thankful I had that opportunity. Was there a perfect, perfect one? For sure not. Because when you work with each other, you [work through] ups and downs. It's just normal.”

Klinsmann was asked if he considers himself a tactician.

“I consider myself a constant learner in every area of the game. I think I've learned quite a lot over the last year, and what I try to do is find always the bigger picture, how every element plays a wider role in it.

“You have the four pillars in coaching education, traditionally it's just technical, tactical, physical and mental. We added years ago with the German team another pillar, which is the personality side. Leadership, character-building, brain skills and all that, and they laughed at me [in Germany] when I introduced language courses and computer seminars and all that stuff. Now they all introduced kind of life-skill managers and sports psychologists -- it's more the American field of doing it, that you have in your college system since 20, 30, 40 years. And now it's all normal that all the clubs in the Bundesliga are doing that.

“So there are many, many other fields that are coming up. Technology is a huge one, [using computer programs for] analyzing every aspect of the game.”

Klinsmann's tenure at Bayern, cut short with five games remaining in the season, fell victim to a culture clash at the staid Bavarian power, with Klinsmann's new-world ideas -- almost entirely the product of his time and studies in the U.S. -- finding little reception among the club's hierarchy. He had been roundly criticized in the German media for installing such ideas with the national team before that.

One of the conflicts, he said, concerned his approach to his job, as a manager who delegates to his staff -- the U.S./English model -- as opposed to the do-everything head coach seen throughout Germany.

“I empowered everyone working, [for instance national team assistant] Jogi Löw running through the tactical elements, because I knew this is his strength, then I knew [another assistant] has this strength, so I implement all the strengths around [the team].

“Now does the player necessarily get that whole thing? No, because he's not part of that roundtable, where we discuss every session in advance. I don't blame him for that, you know, because maybe one day he gets the bigger picture and understands it. And then it's OK. 'Cause I know where he's coming from, because I was a player the same way. And then later on when I was settling down and seeing it from the outside, I realized: 'Wow, you know what? What Cesar Luis Menotti told me there in Genoa? Wow, this is actually true.' And it takes you time.”