The job of head coach of the England national soccer team is serious business. It has been described as second only in importance to the position of prime minister.
As it happens both are vacant right now after a pair of seismic events that rocked England – the team’s exit from the European Championships after a shocking defeat to Iceland on Monday and the United Kingdom’s impending departure from the European Union after the Brexit vote.
Amid the chaos and acrimony that saw Roy Hodgson on the sports side and David Cameron on the political front both quit, Jurgen Klinsmann found himself thrust into the spotlight on Wednesday.
Klinsmann, the United States head coach, is highly regarded in England as a result of his successful playing stint with Tottenham Hotspur in the mid-1990s.
His spell in charge of the U.S. team, while not as spectacular as many American fans would have hoped, has nevertheless been enough to insert his name into the mix of candidates being discussed for the role of Hodgson’s successor.
“Klinsmann’s my pick to take over,” former England defender Jamie Carragher, who won a Champions League title with Liverpool, wrote in the Daily Mail. “(He) has been to a World Cup semifinal with Germany, a Copa America semifinal with the USA and knows our game.”
Leading sports channel Sky Sports News devoted significant time to Klinsmann on Wednesday, as the 51-year-old became the most-discussed candidate, along with Gareth Southgate.
Southgate, the coach for England’s under-21 team, is seen as a potential interim option before a long-term replacement is found.
“Klinsmann was the name that everyone is talking about and we responded to that,” Aidan Magee, a senior correspondent for Sky Sports News, told USA TODAY Sports. “There is no doubt he would be a popular choice. People respect him from his time in England, admire what he did with Germany and have been impressed with his efforts in the USA.”
If this is all a bit bemusing to those loyal to the U.S. program — after all, Klinsmann would likely have been fired had he failed to progress from the group stage of the Copa America this month — consider this: By getting out of the so-called Group of Death at the 2014 World Cup, Klinsmann’s team far outstripped England, which failed to register a single victory and ended up bottom of its group.
This summer’s continental adventure in Europe was uninspiring too, as England’s Euro campaign cut short by Iceland’s tenacious triumph, while Klinsmann’s U.S. squard bounced back from a shaky start in the Copa America to land a semifinal spot.
Even the English bookies have latched on, with oddsmaker Ladbrokes shortening Klinsmann to a 4½-to-1 second favorite and smartbets.com reporting that the German was the most-backed candidate with gamblers.
However, Klinsmann was briefly the odds-on favorite to take over at English Premier League Southampton last week, despite no apparent interest from the club.
So would Klinsmann take the England job if the offer of it fell into his lap? Despite the dismal performance of the England players and their generally uninspired behavior this summer, the national team position is still considered one of the most cherished jobs in world soccer.
Hodgson was the highest paid coach at the Euros, on a salary of nearly $5 million. The English FA would likely be prepared to go even higher. Klinsmann made $3.2 million with the U.S. in 2014, including a World Cup bonus, and is on a base salary of around $2.5 million until his deal is up in 2018.
Yet Klinsmann has long called California home and his contract situation would be tricky to extract from, with U.S. Soccer surely not keen on finding a replacement with the World Cup just two years away.
Even so, that may not stop the increasing public support for Klinsmann in England. London’s Independent newspaper has backed Klinsmann for the job and he is most certainly back on the English soccer radar as its program looks to rebuild from a bleak European adventure.
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