Jurgen Klinsmann won the World Cup and European Championship with Germany during a glittering career in which he played for Inter, Tottenham and Bayern, among others. As a coach, he led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup and managed the U.S. men’s national team from 2011-16. In addition to an ESPN.com column, he is a regular guest on FC Daily.
With domestic competitions and the Champions League reaching decisive points, it is a busy time on the soccer field. Off it, meanwhile, transfer speculation increases as the summer window draws closer. One of the big stories in the recent international break, for example, had nothing to do with any games, as Erling Haaland‘s agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge had meetings with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
I hope that Haaland stays at least another year with Borussia Dortmund and keeps maturing as the centerpiece of a team that can only get better; it would be a shame to see it break up. But his situation is one that many players face — at all levels of the game — during their careers: When is the time right to move clubs and what are the factors that decide where a player should go?
As a young player, it is very difficult to go into detail about where you might fit best. From a technical, tactical point of view, you can analyse clubs pretty well, but you don’t know it from a human side, meaning how you might deal with new teammates, coaches and staff, as well as the culture of the club and city.
In Haaland’s case, he has the influence of his dad, a former professional, which is wonderful. Parents play a big role, especially at a young age, while having a good agent is important to get you the right deal, and your coach can speak to you honestly about what is best for your career.
I didn’t even sign my first professional contract because I was only 16, so my father did it for me, but even after breaking into Stuttgart‘s senior team, I was not mature enough and would rely on others for advice. As I wrote in my last column, my coach Arie Haan told me I should go to Inter in 1989, but that was two years after the club denied a bid to sign me.
Arsene Wenger was the new manager at Monaco and made a huge offer, but Stuttgart’s president said no and basically lectured me, explaining that I was not ready to go anywhere else! I used that experience as a positive and put a buy-out clause in my next contract.
What drove me was that I was so full of curiosity. In the early part of my career at Stuttgart, all my friends were going to university and having a great time and I was always a little jealous of them, but I realised my university would be the life I led and getting these experiences in different countries and cultures. What is more, as Haan told me, it was time to test myself at the next level.
For Haaland, what does it mean to move this summer compared to next? At 20, he must still adjust to a game every three or four days, physically and mentally. He has to play in league and cup games and perform for his country; to find the balance required can take years and every time he goes more than one game without scoring, the criticism begins and that can affect a player.
Even missing a season of Champions League football would not be hugely damaging if his overall game improves as a result of staying where he is a little longer. Meanwhile, timing is also important for the club you join. How will the roster look in two, three years, for example? You cannot get those answers today.
Maybe the picture of the team changes and the coach who signs you gets fired! It happened to me at Sampdoria; Cesar Luis Menotti was an idol for me and wanted me so bad, but I got injured after two months and by the time I came back, he was not there anymore! And then you find yourself in a different situation, dealing with a move that has not worked out.