Legends of international football: Miroslav Klose
It’s a weird world out there readers. When Messi scored his 86th goal of the calendar year, every Messi hater and sane-headed Messi fan was quick to dismiss giving him the lofty honour of being called the ‘best ever’. The reason? Failure to perform for the nation. They argued that performing one’s national duty and bringing accolades to their motherland is a footballer’s true measure. However, when something of the contrary takes place, where a player isn’t at his best at club levels, but phenomenal for his country, a blind eye is turned. A footballer nets 67 times for the fatherland, just one short of the same German whose record was surpassed by Messi, and no one glances twice at him. A player equals Gerd Mueller’s 2nd rank in all time FIFA World Cup goals and still remains a nobody. A player whose nation has never lost a match in which he scored just doesn’t get the accolades he deserves. That, dear readers, is the unfortunate tale of Miroslav Klose.
Every German football fan should thank their stars ten-times over when I say that Miro (as he is affectionately called) nearly did not play for them, but ended up doing so. Klose expressed his desire to play for Germany, but was in two minds between the aforementioned choice and the country of his birth, Poland. Germany were, as Americans would put it, quicker on the draw, to snap up Miro for international duty. Good decision in hindsight. After playing just 4 matches for the Die Mannschaft (and scoring twice as many goals I might add), Klose deservedly cemented a spot for himself in Rudi Voller’s German squad for the 2002 World Cup.
The World Cup 2002 was a mixed one for Germany. While having reached the finals and lost only to amazingly promising Brazilian team, most of their players (barring Kahn) lacked a spark and touch of creativity. Unfortunately for the poets and authors, so did Klose. There was, however, something about him that set him apart from the other strikers, and it was this lanky lad from Opole who scored an astonishing 5 times in the World Cup with his head alone, which, by the way, is the current record for scoring most goals from headers in a single edition of the World Cups. That something isn’t an indescribable feeling or an immeasurable trait, it is good old tenacity. Yes, there was an air arrogance in Klose, however humble he might be. Every single touch on the ball declared his personal reluctance to let someone else take the next. It wasn’t an Arjen Robben-like selfishness, who would shoot where passing is a better option, it was his personal brand of selfishness, where all that mattered was Germany’s victory. He would get booked, he would banned, but he couldn’t be stopped, Germany scored when Klose wanted, and most of the time, Klose himself did the honors, or at least the 5 times he did in his first World Cup, winning him the Silver Boot.
Saying that Klose isn’t a club performer isn’t being fair to him. Yes, he isn’t as prolific a scorer as Gerd Muller while working on a payroll (But then, who is?), but he still is quite the force to reckon with. Having sculpted his way into the ‘big scene’ from the youth ranks of Kaiserslautern, Klose’s eye (or should I say head?) for goals caught the eyes of Bremen folk. Fortunately for their investments, Klose didn’t disappoint, and kept a decent scoring average throughout his tenure at Werder. His subsequent time at Bayern was spent playing second fiddle to Chocolaty good looks Toni, but his contributions were still something that would leave a lasting impression, if not something that would be sung for years by the red folk.
Coming back to his contributions in the black and white, yes, that is something people would be singing about in classic German accents. It’s rather weird though. A look at players like Cristiano Ronaldo scoring, or Lionel Messi, and fans feel pure elation, joy, ecstasy all rolled into one, not for the team’s greater-by-a-goal margin, but for the sheer play of these players, dripping with oodles of flair. Klose however, is far from making his fans go orgasmic with his style of play. In fact, most people wont even notice his contribution on the field, rather, his game would only be appreciated the next morning when the German folk look at the morning headlines after the match. But for any connoisseur of good ol’ fashioned strikers, who dismiss all the ‘false 9′ ridiculousness outright, Klose is a messiah.
No dribbling, no juggling, no nutmegging, no golden balls (I refer to the award, not the ones the few gentlemen with not-so-gentlemanly minds are envisaging), no celebrity girlfriend, no skirting across nightclubs, just plain football. He doesn’t spout crap like Balotelli does about post-mens and celebrations, he somersaults after scoring, like anyone possessing the capability to do so would after setting a fine example of shredding the net apart.
The 2006 World Cup was indeed Klose’s crowning moment. Despite Germany settling for a lower-than-expected third place, Klose scored 5 times, for the second time in a row now. This time, there was no Ronaldo to pop the German party balloons, Klose rightfully won the Golden boot in this edition, and his display in the green colors weren’t half bad for a change, ultimately leading to him being elected as the German footballer for that year.
The Euro 2008 changed everything for Klose, he could no longer be the angry young man upfront scoring goal after goal. He was now the senior most member of a ridiculously young team, and he led them to a second place finish, bowing down only to Spain, and it was this match whose replays 2 years later ultimately helped me decide on my two favorite footballers and my favorite football clubs too (Torres, Klose, Bayern and Chelsea).
Klose is also completely unlike the new breed of players who would play dirty ten times over just to win a game. No matter how important, he has shown time and again that his integrity is unquestionable. Yes, he fouls, he fights, he rants, but he is not unfair. After all, how many of my budding street footballing country men would give up a goal or a penalty while losing a match? Well, Klose did both, once for Lazio and once for Werder Bremen, and the level of the competition is naturally unimaginable and completely incomparable to a measly 10 minute game. But big game or not, Klose has shown time and again that a ‘Hand of God’ isn’t the only Godly feat possible in football.
The World Cup in 2010 might not have been too bad for the German armada, with a third place finish, and with Klose scoring 4 times, but it did leave every Klose and Germany fan infuriated. This was supposed to be there moment. Klose was supposed to score against a brilliant Spanish team, go to the finals and score the Golden goal and replace Ronaldo on the list of all time World Cup goal scorers once and for all. We knew in our hearts Klose would complete his hattrick of five goals per World Cup, but Klose could only come very very ‘klose’ to it, falling short by just one goal. Any Germany fan following that had just one prayer, “God, please let Klose play in the third-place match”, which was quick to replaced by “God, please make him fit before the third place match” and “God please keep him fit and Germany striker-less till 2014″ subsequently.
Unfortunately for all of us waiting for Klose to (finally) do the blasted deed, Mario Gomez and certain other young guns from Leverkusen and Dortmund have come up in the meanwhile, and it might be these players, who saw Klose playing while they were still in their nappies, who might deny him the chance of scoring the 15th goal. But contrary to what each fan wants, Klose is least interested in scoring the 15th goal. All he would ask for is an opportunity to run alongside the young team with the World Cup finally in his deserving hands.
At the age of 34, with a good one and half years of competitive football left between Klose and the elusive 15th World Cup goal, and with Mario Gomez’s escapades in the Bundesliga, the probability of Klose scoring a goal does not lie on the preferable side of 0 on a numberline. But to write him off, now that is something you just shouldn’t do, because players like him are like wine, they just grow better with age. Bring on brutal Italian defenses and brilliant Gomez performances, Klose will just somersault his way into the history books come the next World Cup, just you wait!