Hertha Berlin hitting reboot button with Klinsmann on board
BERLIN (AP) — Hertha Berlin has hit the reboot button and is counting on former United States coach Jürgen Klinsmann to launch its journey to becoming one of Germany’s biggest clubs.
Helped by a newly hired extensive backroom staff, Klinsmann is being charged with waking the “sleeping giant” and putting Hertha in position to deliver on the promise following a $250 million investment from new backer Lars Windhorst.
“For years now there have been great hopes in Berlin,” Klinsmann said at his presentation this week. “People I’ve met on the streets – and I have a connection because my son was here – they said, ‘Yeah, Berlin is waiting for something special. Berlin has the potential. Berlin is a sleeping giant. But somehow it just doesn’t get going.’”
Klinsmann, who has been a Hertha member since 2004, has a long association with the club through his father Siegfried, who hailed from Eberswalde near Berlin and was a Hertha fan, and his son Jonathan, who was a reserve goalkeeper for Hertha from 2017 until this year when he moved to Swiss club St. Gallen. Siegfried died in 2005.
“My first Bundesliga game was Hertha against Stuttgart. I stood there as an 8-year-old lad in the stand with a blue and white flag,” Klinsmann said.
Klinsmann went on to play for Stuttgart, where he began a glittering career as a prolific striker that also took in Inter Milan, Monaco, Tottenham, and Bayern Munich. He won the World Cup with West Germany in 1990 and the European Championship with Germany in 1996.
Klinsmann’s coaching career began with Germany in 2004. He led the side to third place when it hosted the World Cup in 2006, and had mixed fortunes coaching Bayern.
He became the U.S. coach in 2011, and helped the Americans win the 2013 Gold Cup and reach the second round of the 2014 World Cup. But he was ultimately fired in 2016 in an unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
Back in management, he’s bringing a new structure and experienced backroom with him to Hertha.
Former Hertha player Arne Friedrich has been appointed in the newly created position of performance manager. Andreas Köpke, the Germany goalkeeping coach, will help out in the same role at Hertha to the end of the season. Former Werder Bremen coach Alexander Nouri and Markus Feldhoff are joining as assistant coaches, and Werner Leuthard is joining the fitness team.
“It’s a team of people who are prepared, who have energy and, above all, expertise,” Klinsmann said.
Hertha needs all the help it can get.
The team is 15th in the 18-team Bundesliga after losing its last four games, just out of the relegation zone on goal difference. To make matters worse, promoted city rival Union Berlin is five points better off and “Stadtmeister” after beating Hertha 1-0 in their first top-flight derby.
The latest loss, 4-0 at fellow struggler Augsburg, proved the final straw for Ante Covic, who was fired on Wednesday.
Covic had been with Hertha continuously since 2003, first as a player and then in a series of coaching roles. He was under-23 coach when he succeeded Pál Dárdai in the top job in May, but his team was rarely rewarded for the efforts put in before the latest negative spiral began.
“It’s won’t be an easy journey, but that would also have been boring,” Klinsmann said of the challenge he faces at Hertha.
Expectations are all the greater because of the cash investments from Windhorst. The financier provided 125 million euros ($140 million) in the summer and increased his stake to 49.9% by another 99 million euros ($110 million) this month. He welcomed Klinsmann’s arrival as a “great signal.”
It was one that surprised Germany coach Joachim Löw, who worked as Klinsmann’s assistant before taking over after the 2006 World Cup.
“It was a message I hadn’t expected,” Löw said. “I’m happy that such a top-level professional is returning to the Bundesliga and can bring his knowledge back to German football.”
Klinsmann’s first game is at home to Borussia Dortmund on Saturday.
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP