“I still have to watch and learn about K League. I hope we’ll be talking about the same thing in a few months.”메이저놀이터
That’s what Jürgen Klinsmann said at his press conference to announce his appointment as head coach of the South Korean national soccer team. In March, the Korea Football Association (KFA) officially announced the appointment of Klinsmann, who previously coached the German national team and the U.S. national team, as the A team’s head coach. On the 9th of that month, Klinsmann attended a press conference at the Paju National Football Center (Paju NFC).
He was a former star player. He answered sharp questions with a relaxed smile. Klinsmann made headlines in November 2020 when he announced his intention to resign from his position as Hertha Berlin head coach via social media. When asked, Klinsmann smiled and said, “People make mistakes. We always learn. I will never announce my resignation on social media again. I think it’s an experience. It’s hard to make the right decision all the time, and I will make fewer mistakes,” he smiled.
He is also confident, as he lays out his lofty and specific goals. The first is to win the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup next January. By the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North and Central America, when his contract expires, he wants to “break the top four myth. “Winning is important,” Klinsmann said. As I said at Incheon Airport, the first goal is to win the Asian Cup,” said Klinsmann. “Korea reached the quarterfinals in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup. I was there. I will give the players confidence that they can set high goals and achieve them. I will aim for the top four,” he said emphatically.
He also shared his initial plans for his appointment. He emphasized that he is a ‘scholarly’ leader. He promised that he would strive to identify not only European but also K League players such as Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), Kim Min-jae (Bayern Munich, then Napoli), and Lee Kang-in (Paris Saint-Germain, then Mallorca).
As he had just taken the helm, he was expected to analyze less power. Coach Klinsmann boasts 40 years of soccer experience. Coach Klinsmann, who has extensive experience overseas, not only in Germany but also in England and the United States, said, “I saw the quality of Asian teams at the World Cup in Qatar. Qualifying is not easy in any region. We will focus on qualifying. The Asian teams will learn. I learned a lot about regional qualifiers in my six years with the U.S. national team,” he said, emphasizing that he is a “scholarly leader. He also emphasized that he was a member of FIFA’s Technical Study Group (TSG).
He also encouraged domestic players to look forward to joining the national team. He promised to personally visit the K League scene. “With over 40 years of experience, I can recognize a young player’s skills in 10 minutes,” he said, expressing his confidence as a veteran coach. “Of course, I will live in Korea,” said Klinsmann, who vowed to “verify the field.” “I still have to see the K League. I need to learn. I hope we can talk about the same topic in a few months,” he said directly.
He actually showed a willingness to fulfill his promise. This was the case early on in his tenure. Three days after his inaugural press conference, Klinsmann watched 10 K League 1 matches, starting with FC Seoul’s match against Ulsan Hyundai at the Seoul World Cup Stadium. For his debut match, an A match in late March, Klinsmann called up a squad that was largely composed of members of the Qatar 2022 World Cup squad. With less than a month on the job, he prioritized getting to know the existing squad.
Three months later. Klinsmann was scheduled to face Peru and El Salvador. There was also a surprise appointment. Ahn Hyun-beom (Jeonbuk Hyundai, then Jeju United), who stood out in the K League at the time, was called up to the A team.
Klinsmann’s assessment. “I haven’t seen him play yet,” Klinsmann said of Ahn after the A team roster was announced in June. Coach Michael Kim and advisor Cha Doo-ri traveled around the country. Of course, Ahn was considered one of the best wingbacks in the country when he was named to the A team, but the only Jeju game on Klinsmann’s watch list was against Ulsan on June 10.
Because he was an unknown quantity, Klinsmann used Ahn as a right fullback in an exhibition match against Peru. He didn’t utilize Ahn’s explosive speed and attacking power, which are his biggest strengths. In the meantime, Klinsmann focused on checking overseas players by traveling to England, Italy, and Belgium. This was the reason why he selected Wonseok Hong (Belgium) and Park Kyu-hyun (Dynamo Dresden, Germany) as his first two players.
It’s been almost half a year since he took over as head coach of the Korean national team. Two draws, two losses, and not a single win. He even drew 1-1 with El Salvador (ranked 75th), a team that is considered a relative underdog. He is taking the longest time of any foreign coach in history to get his first win.
In the meantime, the ‘remote coaching’ controversy has emerged. Klinsmann has been mostly out of the country since taking a month-long vacation after the June A match. He traveled to Europe for personal reasons such as charity events and spent time at his home in Los Angeles.
In other words, he did not fulfill the terms of his appointment. The ‘Korean residency condition’ stipulated in the contract became irrelevant. He is still staying at his home in the United States. In a two-day video press conference with the KFA press corps on Sept. 17 and 18, amid the stigma of being a “cyber coach,” he said, “We can work differently. I’m communicating with Coach Michael Kim and Advisor Chaduri,” he said, “Koreans are crazy about work, but I’m a workaholic too. I’m looking at international trends and analyzing my opponents. I’m not taking a break,” he explained.
The K League is in the middle of its season. However, Klinsmann won’t be in Korea until the A-Match in September. He will join the national team in Wales, England. The domestic selection is likely to be weighed by coach Michael Kim and advisor Chaduri, who have been scouting the domestic scene as they did in June. Coaches Andreas Köpke and Paulo Stringara were in Europe, focusing on overseas players.
About two months before the Asian Cup, which they are confident of winning, they will look at the domestic scene. “The schedule for July and August was agreed upon before signing the contract with the KFA,” Klinsmann said. That’s why I didn’t spend much time in Korea,” Klinsmann said, adding, “I will stay in Korea in October and November. We are also planning to train domestically before the Asian Cup,” he said of his upcoming schedule.
Son Heung-min, Kim Min-jae, and Lee Kang-in have built a formidable roster. With key players in the prime of their careers, there is little doubt that South Korea is in the midst of an all-time high.
But with the World Cup just three years away, it seems like the team is taking a backseat. The players who would be given new opportunities under the new coaching regime and grow into new weapons for the A team were developing their international competitiveness at home. Kim Moon-hwan and Cho Kyu-sung (Jeonbuk at the time), who were key in the Qatar World Cup, and Na Sang-ho (FC Seoul), who was a standout against Uruguay. The overall framework of the national team, which Bento had worked on for more than four years, seems to have become inconsistent under Klinsmann.