Yet Klinsmann walked away from the negotiating table at the last moment, setting in motion the path that would culminate in
Bradley now leads the U.S. to the World Cup, which starts on June 11, while Klinsmann will be in South Africa working for ESPN. He and I sat down for a one-on-one interview at the ESPN studios in Bristol, Conn., recently and talked about a number of things, from the reasons he left the U.S. at the altar to
Klinsmann's coaching rep has taken a hit since '06, the result of a tumultuous tenure at Bayern Munich, where the board jettisoned him after less than one season. But Klinsmann is still a managerial commodity who has drawn interest of late from English Premier League teams and might still have a chance to coach the U.S. someday.
Why do I think this? Just call it a hunch. While Klinsmann shied away from answering my questions about someday taking the U.S. job, he is clearly open to managing again, and his family has just recently re-settled back in California from Europe. Klinsmann takes pains to say that he maintains a good relationship with U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, and the feeling is mutual. At this point it's impossible to know if the U.S. job will be open until we see how the team performs at the World Cup. But whatever ends up happening, it could be fascinating to hear Klinsmann the analyst discuss the performance of Bradley and his U.S. team.
Here's my conversation with Klinsmann (edited for length and clarity):
It will be a mixture. You have the Latin influence. You have the cultural backbone of your university system, which is completely different from the rest of the world. You have the fact that it's mostly organized soccer, when we know that the best players in the world come out of unorganized events. I think it's a fascinating topic. It will be defined in the years down the road. You know about Brazil, but even Brazil goes through those discussions every day now with
If you take the U.S. Olympic basketball team for a seven-week stretch with all these superstars,
It's different when you're on the way out to the field and you see those guys in the corridor. You say, 'O.K., I want to play in the Premier League, but maybe not only on a mediocre team. Maybe I want to play in one of the top four teams in the Premier League.' So then you've got to beat those guys. It's really down to the players now, and they have nothing to lose. Play England!
It didn't work out the way he hoped, and I felt bad about it. Because I knew: Give him more time. I asked the club: Leave him there for another two months. But others made those decisions. So I was really pleased when he said I'll do those three months with Everton. Good, good for you! There he got the support, he got the playing time. At Bayern it was far too difficult with
It was really impressive. We don't have those types of seminars in Germany. Not at that level, because our university system doesn't have the recognition it has in the United States, and it certainly doesn't have the connection to sports. The American system is completely different. You need to understand America and how it works in order to get that picture, and I have been lucky to live here 11 years and see a lot of places. Coach K is really good stuff for any coach in whatever sport he's in.