Insight

Klinsmann: The Column

One World Cup, one European Championship, two UEFA Cups and a trail of goals wherever he played – and now a brand new column in Champions Journal. Fittingly, Jürgen Klinsmann kicks off with his take on the modern striker

WORDS Jürgen Klinsmann

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

It’s really fascinating. Haaland doesn’t have any fear. Gnabry has no fear. Leroy Sané no fear, Timo Werner no fear. The same for all these youngsters breaking through. As Bayern coach I had the pleasure of giving Thomas Müller his first professional game in the Champions League and he came in and played like he had always been there. He scored a goal right away against Sporting Lisbon more than 10 years ago. But the question will always be, can they stay consistent throughout their career?That’s the key.

Safer working

The refined art of defending
Thankfully the rules have changed and it makes life easier for centre forwards nowadays. Defenders can’t tackle you brutally from behind anymore; there could be a straight red card or at least a yellow right away. This puts the defender on his toes. Twenty or thirty years ago that wasn’t the case: you knew that in the first 15 to 20 minutes they were going to foul you as often as they could and for as long as they could get away with it. They basically stole the joy of the game from you.

Robert Lewandowski scored big last season


Psychologically, games were often decided in the first 20 minutes because of very hard tackles. Because teams cannot play that kind of hard, physical game anymore, defences are now so well organised. Back then you knew that if you survived the first 20 minutes – if you didn’t get really banged up – then you’d have an edge in the game. You’d start to move defenders around, make them run, make them follow you, and then hope to make the difference in the last 15 to 20 minutes. As long as you survived the first 20 minutes, you could kill them then in the last 20.

In every era there are tremendous defenders but for me, Jürgen Kohler – who I won the World Cup with in ’90 and played against at club level – was scary. He played a long time for Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Juventus. When we met up again in Italy I said, “Oh my gosh, this guy is following me around.” You played against some very tough, physical defenders, but that was a different time. I’m really happy that strikers like Lewandowski have more protection nowadays, but they still have to find the moment and space to finish things off.

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

Klinsmann: The Column
Insight

Klinsmann: The Column

One World Cup, one European Championship, two UEFA Cups and a trail of goals wherever he played – and now a brand new column in Champions Journal. Fittingly, Jürgen Klinsmann kicks off with his take on the modern striker

WORDS Jürgen Klinsmann

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

It’s really fascinating. Haaland doesn’t have any fear. Gnabry has no fear. Leroy Sané no fear, Timo Werner no fear. The same for all these youngsters breaking through. As Bayern coach I had the pleasure of giving Thomas Müller his first professional game in the Champions League and he came in and played like he had always been there. He scored a goal right away against Sporting Lisbon more than 10 years ago. But the question will always be, can they stay consistent throughout their career?That’s the key.

Safer working

The refined art of defending
Thankfully the rules have changed and it makes life easier for centre forwards nowadays. Defenders can’t tackle you brutally from behind anymore; there could be a straight red card or at least a yellow right away. This puts the defender on his toes. Twenty or thirty years ago that wasn’t the case: you knew that in the first 15 to 20 minutes they were going to foul you as often as they could and for as long as they could get away with it. They basically stole the joy of the game from you.

Robert Lewandowski scored big last season


Psychologically, games were often decided in the first 20 minutes because of very hard tackles. Because teams cannot play that kind of hard, physical game anymore, defences are now so well organised. Back then you knew that if you survived the first 20 minutes – if you didn’t get really banged up – then you’d have an edge in the game. You’d start to move defenders around, make them run, make them follow you, and then hope to make the difference in the last 15 to 20 minutes. As long as you survived the first 20 minutes, you could kill them then in the last 20.

In every era there are tremendous defenders but for me, Jürgen Kohler – who I won the World Cup with in ’90 and played against at club level – was scary. He played a long time for Bayern Munich, Dortmund and Juventus. When we met up again in Italy I said, “Oh my gosh, this guy is following me around.” You played against some very tough, physical defenders, but that was a different time. I’m really happy that strikers like Lewandowski have more protection nowadays, but they still have to find the moment and space to finish things off.

‘Hungry for goals’

Singing the praises of a good old fashioned No9

Robert Lewandowski is a complete striker, a traditional No9. He is always around the box, always waiting to combine or finish things off. I would compare him to Marco van Basten in the Eighties and Nineties: he can finish with both feet, he can finish in the air and he’s a killer from the penalty spot. It’s wonderful to see because we haven’t had that in quite a while.

The hugely successful Spanish team that won the European Championship and the World Cup came up with the idea that we don’t actually need strikers anymore, rather six midfielders that constantly switch roles. The last surviving striker was Fernando Torres and when he was sent to the bench it really hurt me. We always talk about Ronaldo moving to the wings and Messi being a false nine. What had happened to the No9s? So it’s really good to see it still exists with a player like Lewandowski. Every game he is just so hungry for goals.

I still think there’s room for the traditional No9, a very strong player in the air, flicking balls on, laying balls off – a tall No9 that dominates the air, but is maybe not as quick and agile with the ball at his feet. I think we’ll see more No9s again over the next few years, because it’s a way to break down very defensive-minded teams: you flick the balls in and play for the second ball.

“IT’S WONDERFUL TO SEE AN ESTABLISHED STRIKER LIKE LEWANDOWSKI BEING SO CONSISTENT AND SO HUNGRY OVER SO MANY YEARS”

What makes him even stronger is that he is surrounded by players who can score as well, which makes it very difficult for the opposition to know who to focus on. If he’s too tightly marked then he just plays a one-two and the other guy scores. If they focus on the other guys, then he has more space and he only needs a split second to make something out of nothing. That makes this Bayern Munich team so special and so exciting. It’s wonderful to see an established striker like him being so consistent and so hungry over so many years.

He’s 32 now and it seems he gets even hungrier every year. That is the difference with these top players. Lewandowski, Messi and Ronaldo are amazing examples: over the past 15 years or so they have been in the professional game, they have delivered almost every year and that’s the key when you look at the very special players. You look at consistency and that comes from the way they live their professional lives. Lewandowski should have got the Ballon d’Or, but unfortunately because of Covid they didn’t do that in this crazy year 2020.

Born ready

Youth teamers playing like seasoned pros
These days young players are so mature already. They are far better prepared to become professionals than we were 30 years ago. In my time you were more all over the place and you had to figure things out yourself. Sometimes you did it OK, sometimes not. Nowadays they have agents who tell them what is right and what is wrong off the field. They have specialist coaches, not only the head coach and assistant coaches, telling them technical things. They work on their weaknesses after training then they learn how to recover faster, because recovery is one of the key things in the professional game.

The way they enter the professional world mentally and physically shows you what the clubs’ academies are working on day in, day out. They prepare them to come into the senior team with confidence and have the fitness to play the physical game already. And psychologically they are so prepared – they have no fear.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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