Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series. In this edition, we take a look at German striker Jurgen Klinsmann, who first played for Tottenham Hotspur in the 1994/95 campaign. He later returned to North London in the middle of the 1997/98 campaign.
Despite spending just 18 months in English football, Jurgen Klinsmann has a great legacy at Tottenham and is a hugely popular figure with the fans. Klinsmann proved to be a pioneer for other European imports to succeed in English football in years to come.
Returning Player – Jurgen Klinsmann
Early Career and First Spell at Tottenham Hotspur
The signing of Jurgen Klinsmann was a huge statement of intent for Tottenham at a time where imports from overseas were much less frequent. Throughout the 1990s, the German forward was viewed as one of the most formidable strikers in world football.
Klinsmann began his career with Stuttgarter Kickers in the German Second Division. He established himself as a first-team regular at just 18 years of age. In 1983/84, Klinsmann scored 19 league goals and caught the attention of rivals VFB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
Klinsmann quickly established himself as one of the best strikers in the league and hit double figures in all of his five seasons at the club. His best season came in 1987/88 where has was the division’s top scorer with 19 goals. He later joined Italian giants Inter Milan in 1989 and played a key role in Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, helping them to lift the Supercoppa Italiana in 1990 and the UEFA Cup in 1991.
Klinsmann lit up the international stage during the 1990 World Cup. He scored three goals and helped West Germany lift a third World Cup in their history. Klinsmann’s form earned him a place in the team of the tournament for Italia 90.
The striker then spent two seasons with Monaco from 1992 until 1994, scoring 30 goals in two seasons before agreeing to join Tottenham Hotspur. Klinsmann joined Spurs for a fee of £2 million in the summer of 1994. Upon his arrival, some sections of the media and some fans still held a grudge towards the German for his role in the 1990 World Cup triumph. In that tournament, some tabloids suggested that Klinsmann had a reputation of being a ‘diver’. Encouraged pre-match by strike partner Teddy Sheringham, Klinsmann famously did a ‘dive’ goal celebration after scoring the winner in a 4-3 win against Sheffield Wednesday.
Klinsmann took no time in adapting to English football and was awarded the August Player of The Month after a fantastic start to life in North London. Klinsmann would help Tottenham to finish seventh in the Premier League – their highest finish in five seasons. In just one season, Klinsmann acclimatised wonderfully to life in England and became a key player for Tottenham. The German scored 29 goals in all competitions and the link-up play between Klinsmann and Sheringham was viewed as one of the leagues most frightening strike partnerships. Klinsmann’s form was merited and he was awarded the Football Writers Footballer of the Year in 1995. Klinsmann was also placed in the PFA team of the season.
Teams That Klinsmann Played for in Between
After just one season in North London, Klinsmann returned to Germany to join Bayern Munich. In his first season back in Germany he was extremely successful. He finished as Bayern Munich’s top scorer with 16 league goals in 1995/96 as they finished in second place. Klinsmann was in formidable form in the UEFA Cup and his 15 goals in 12 games set a new record for the competition (a record that stood until 2011). Such form was poignant in guiding Bayern Munich to a UEFA Cup triumph in 1996.
Klinsmann also enjoyed great success on the international stage that year. He scored three goals in the European Championships in 1996 for the German team that won the tournament.
The striker continued to play a crucial role for Bayern Munich, scoring 15 goals as they won the 1996/97 Bundesliga title. However, Klinsmann joined Sampdoria in 1997 but struggled for form, scoring twice in eight games. Mid-way through the season, he decided to return to Tottenham Hotspur on loan until the end of the 1997/98 campaign.
Return To Tottenham for Jurgen Klinsmann
When Jurgen Klinsmann rejoined Tottenham, they were struggling in the bottom half of The Premier League and there were fears of a potential relegation to the First Division. Klinsmann proved to be an inspired signing on his return to White Hart Lane. The German played an integral role in helping Spurs avoid relegation. His best moment came against Wimbledon where he scored four times in a 6-2 victory.
Klinsmann’s nine goals were the catalyst for Tottenham’s upturn in fortune during the 1997/98 campaign. Spurs avoided relegation and finished 14th at the end of the campaign, with the German finishing as the club’s top scorer.
In his final international tournament for Germany, Klinsmann became the first player to score at least three goals in three consecutive World Cups, later joined by Ronaldo of Brazil and compatriot Miroslav Klose. Klinsmann retired from football at the end of 1998. He ended his international career with 47 goals in 108 games. This makes him the fourth-highest goalscorer for the German national team.
While he only spent 18 months in North London in two separate spells, the impact that Klinsmann made during his time at Tottenham cannot be undenied.