Tottenham Hotspur: Is Jurgen Klinsmann the Man to Replace Harry Redknapp?
Harry Redknapp is not alone in being criticised over the course of his career by his club's supporters, as well as outside elements like journalists and ex-players. It is something that, as a football manager, you must learn to deal with even though it is often unfair.
Despite the general success of his tenure thus far at Tottenham Hotspur, there have been occasions when Redknapp's team selections and tactics have come under scrutiny, the latter half of last season in particular saw criticism directed towards him as Spurs' push for a top-four spot stuttered and ultimately failed.
This season however, beyond nitpicking here and there, Redknapp's performance has been as near-flawless as you can ask for from a manager.
If the so-near yet so-far nature of Tottenham Hotspur's defeat to Manchester City this past Sunday demonstrated the cruel luck that saw them miss out on a draw or an even more vital win, the way Spurs fought back from a two-goal deficit typified the philosophy Redknapp holds key to his team's form this season: that is to let good football players go out there and just play.
It reads overly simplistic, and naturally does not take in the work that goes into assembling such a team and uniting them for a common cause. But it is the real essence of Redknapp's managerial style, and is in large part the reason why he is favourite to become England manager when Fabio Capello steps down after Euro 2012.
The level to which Redknapp has got Tottenham competing these past few seasons has been the major catalyst for seeing him considered for the national team job. But among the leading English candidates anyway, it has been apparent to those who have been looking that for some time now Redknapp may well be the man for the job.
Redknapp is a manager who for years has excelled at simplifying things for his players, a quality that would be welcome in an England camp that for too long has been over-concerned with issues beyond those on the football pitch. His latter years in charge of Portsmouth and Spurs have shown his ability to put a team of considerable talent together (regardless of the spending that has gone into both, there have been some shrewd signings), again a quality that is not out of place in international football.
It is difficult to see Redknapp not taking the job should the Football Association offer him it (something that surely will do unless there is a negative outcome from his current court case). Though it would be difficult to leave the job he is doing at Spurs, he has himself admitted for "an Englishman it would be hard to turn down."
With months to go until any decision is likely to be made it probably seems a tad premature to be speculating on whom Redknapp's replacement would be in this scenario. Then again we are currently in the January transfer window, so what better time to indulge in some speculation and a game of 'what if?'
Seeing as Jurgen Klinsmann was only appointed manager of the United States national team last year he might seem an unlikely candidate. But considering his links with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, he is one worthy of consideration. At least from the point of analysing whether he is the man Spurs should look to in replacing Harry Redknapp.
Can You Ever Go Back?
Compared to the length of service given by those others regarded as Tottenham legends, the season and a half Jurgen Klinsmann spent with the club was minuscule. He brought plenty of goals in a superb partnership with Teddy Sheringham in 1994-95, whilst not as prolific in his return in 1998, the German forward contributed some notable performances that helped steered Spurs away from the relegation zone in a difficult campaign.
The fact that he was one of the best players in the world and he was plying his trade at White Hart Lane helped cement his legendary status in the eyes of Spurs fans.
Even before taking his first official management job with the German national team in 2004, there had been the occasional story linking Klinsmann with a return to Spurs. If there was little substance then to the stories, beyond linking a fan favourite with taking charge of his ex-club, the good job he did with Germany has made him a more realistic link in the years since.
Klinsmann undoubtedly remains fond of Tottenham. He said as much in an interview with the club's official website in early January, saying how he will "always carry that club in my heart because it's a really special place." Would that extend to wanting to return as manager?
Spurs might be hesitant considering their last two appointments of former favourites, Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle, were not nearly as successful as they hoped. There were good moments in both's respective tenures, but neither were able to translate their heroic homecomings into something more tangible.
The assumption that you should never go back has not always worked out disappointingly at Spurs. Terry Venables played for the club in the 1960s before returning as boss, winning the FA Cup in 1991, while of course most notably Bill Nicholson was part of Arthur Rowe's title winning "push and run" side of 1951 before he returned as manager. And we all know how well that worked out.
The Grand Vision: Is It Right for Tottenham?
It would not be unfair to describe Harry Redknapp as an old-fashioned manager. That is not to say his methods or style are out of date, they are clearly not, he just favours a more straightforward approach than Klinsmann.
Considering how Redknapp has got Tottenham back to basics after the experimentation with a continental system built on the work of a sporting director, Klinsman's own wholesale approach to management might seem like a return to the previous system.
In fact, Klinsmann, too, would be his own man, and based on what he has looked to implement in his previous experiences as manager, might be ideally suited in taking Tottenham forward.
Critics might point to Klinsmann's disappointing time in charge of Bayern Munich as evidence why Spurs should shy away from appointing him. But while Bayern were not exactly setting the Bundesliga alight during that time, they were not far off the top when he was dismissed, a decision that put a stop to the long-term plans Klinsmann had for the club.
Like when he was in charge of Germany, Klinsmann employed technical and specialist staff to work with players on everything from fitness to psychology, while plans were made also to improve the club's player development.
Unfortunately for him, Bayern were not concerned with long-term health, something they regard as a given with their considerable wealth and size as a club, just results in the short term. That Louis van Gaal won them a title and took them to the Champions League final in 2010 might suggest their decision to replace Klinsmann with an established manager might have been proved correct.
But the repercussions have arguably been felt in the failure by van Gaal to build on that, with Bayern currently struggling to stand out in an extremely competitive Bundesliga.
It is intriguing to wonder if Klinsmann's vision would have shown signs of coming to fruition by now in Munich. Is such an approach what is needed at Spurs in the long term to make them a sustained Premier League title challenger that are capable of competing at the top level in Europe?
It sounds good on paper, and might prove effective with Klinsmann in charge. But were Redknapp to leave Spurs this summer, the focus would surely need to be someone who can steady the ship immediately, a manager who can keep a talented side together while adding a little more that might see it push on.
But is there really an ideal candidate who is available and would want to come in? The positive style of football Klinsmann had Germany especially playing in World Cup 2006 would suit this Tottenham side well at least, and if you can't replicate Redknapp's personality off the field, then at least it would be useful to be able to do so on the pitch.
The Project That Klinsmann Can Not Say Goodbye To...for Now at Least.
Taking all that has been said in this article so far, Klinsmann in many ways really could be quite a good Tottenham manager. But timing is crucial, as with most things in life, and right now it is hard to see Klinsmann giving up his job as United States manager even for one that might tempt his heart as much as Spurs.
On a personal level, being in charge of Team U.S.A. means first and foremost he gets to remain in the country where he and his family have made a seemingly very happy life. This writer has never been to Klinsmann's adopted home-state of California, but it seems if you've got the money to make it work it is a pretty great place to live.
And if being the manager of the United States soccer team is not international football's most glamorous job, it is certainly a project of some great potential. There Klinsmann undoubtedly has the money and facilities to build the sort of grand visions he has made a significant part of his managerial style.
World Cup performances in the past decade, though not stunning, have certainly been quite solid. In looking at what his new players have done in the past, Klinsmann has identified a key element that needs to be implemented to take them onto the next level: improved conditioning.
As Leander Schaerlaeckens writes in an excellent article for ESPN.com, "Superior conditioning underpins Klinsmann's master plan for taking the U.S. program to the next level, theoretically birthing a faster-paced game, increased possession and pressure on the ball, and a 'more proactive' style intended to 'go at the other team.'"
Watching how this assessment of his team might come to fruition will be an interesting watch for Klinsmann and all of us. He might well just prove to be the man to make America a world football power, and that is something he will want to see through all the way if he can.
So Spurs might have to look elsewhere in the event of a Redknapp departure this summer, and for them right now that might be the best bet, too. But do not rule out Klinsmann making a return to White Hart Lane somewhere down the line if he is successful with Team U.S.A.