BRISTOL, Conn. — Former Bayern Munich and German National Team coach Jürgen Klinsmann said Tuesday that he hopes LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan looks to build on the success of his recent stint at Everton by returning overseas.
Klinsmann—who coached Donovan briefly during a five-month loan spell to Bayern Munich in 2008-09—praised the US star’s time in the English Premier League, but admitted he can sympathize with Donovan’s domestic obligations with MLS.
“I understand the long-term commitment to MLS, because he helps the league tremendously,” Klinsmann said. “But just from a competitive point of view, I wish he would go back overseas and challenge these guys. It’s as simple as that.”
“Because he has the talent, he has the capabilities,” Klinsmann added. “But he needs an environment where he gets total support.”
Klinsmann made the comments during a promotional event for ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup, for which Klinsmann will serve as a studio analyst with former US National Team fixture Alexi Lalas.
“He should do whatever he feels is the right thing, and what challenges him the most and what makes him happy," Klinsmann said. "It’s his life. But as a competitor and as a coach, I’m pleased when players take on the biggest stage they can.”
“He’s one of the players that is always on the radar screen for European clubs,” Klinsmann added. “Now he can prove that again this summer. ... He can kind of re-evaluate his own reputation through the World Cup again.”
Klinsmann also reflected on Donovan’s brief spell with Bayern Munich, which began in November 2008 but lasted less than five months. Donovan suited up for Bayern in five Bundesliga matches and one Cup game but struggled to make a permanent dent on a lineup that consisted of what Klinsmann called “basically the [German] National Team.”
“It was absolutely not a disappointment,” Klinsmann said. “It was Landon taking a big risk coming in for three months, knowing that ahead of him was Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski. And he took that chance because I told him I wanted to give him that chance and for him to make the best out of it. And he did. He made a lot of out it.”
Klinsmann said he told Donovan to take the experience as a positive and eventually take the risk again if given the opportunity, making his brief but successful spell with Everton a tremendous step in Donovan’s career.
“He proved it,” Klinsmann said. “He got the support that he needed, and every player needs the support of his environment.”
Klinsmann also said Tuesday that he has no regrets about not taking the US national team coaching spot in 2007, when he was rumored to be the top candidate to replace Bruce Arena.
“There are no regrets at all,” Klinsmann said. “In the discussions we just weren’t on the same page, and we left it totally positive. There was no problem at all.”
Klinsmann said he will decide following the World Cup if he’ll return in some form to coaching, either with a national program or a club team.
He also threw his support behind US coach Bob Bradley, and said he’s eager to see if the Americans can survive the group stage, beginning June 12 against England.
“He has the potential to go through to the knockout stage, and that is the big goal,” Klinsmann said. "He has to reach the knockout phase."
“The role of the coach, I think, is a little overvalued,” Klinsmann added. “Because it’s the players who make it. . ... The great thing about soccer is that it’s a players’ game, not a coaches’ game. I hope the US players take that moment now in their own hands and say, ‘OK, we’re going to give England a big, big fight and see what happens.’ ”