Days after leading Germany to third place in the 2006 World Cup with a young team he personally put together, coach Jürgen Klinsmann has decided to step down. He will be replaced by his assistant, Joachim Löw.
Klinsmann is looking forward to leading a normal life again
Millions of German fans as well as the 23 players he coached during the World Cup had hoped to keep Klinsmann at the helm of the team he led to third place on home soil, but the 1990 World Cup winner has decided not to extend his contract, he confirmed at a news conference on Wednesday.
"I want to thank everyone, especially the fans, who pushed us along to this fantastic success," a visibly emotional Klinsmann said.
"It was the most beautiful World Cup ever. We've created a new image of the Germans around the world."
Klinsmann had left his future with the team open immediately following the tournament, saying he needed a few days to digest the emotional experience, consider his professional options and talk with his family before making a decision that would, he said, be between his "heart and mind."
"My big wish is to go back to my family, to go back to leading a normal life with them," the California-based Klinsmann said. "But another important reason is that after two years of putting a lot of energy into this, I feel that I lack the power and the strength to continue in the same way."
Hundreds of thousands gathered in Berlin to thank Klinsmann and the German team
Though he may be a national hero now, Klinsmann had a rough ride in Germany in the run up to the World Cup. Two years ago, he was the third choice to take over the coaching job from Rudi Völler and regularly clashed with German soccer officials due to his decision to commute from his adopted home in California. He also endured fierce criticism for his coaching methods, player selection and staff requests.
The 41-year-old, who is married to an American and has two children, is also known to cherish the anonymity he has in the United States.
"He is famous all over Europe," said Bruce Arena, the US coach and a friend of Klinsmann's. "In California, he's just another good-looking blond guy on the beach."
Klinsmann has denied numerous rumors that he could take over the American team for Arena, who has been on the US bench for the last eight years, but has not made any statements regarding his future plans. Before coaching Germany he ran a soccer consulting firm.
Löw to replace Klinsmann
Klinsmann and Löw announced their decisions at a press conference in Frankfurt on Wednesday
After short-lived speculation about who would replace Klinsmann as German national coach, on Wednesday it was announced that his assistant, Joachim Löw, would take over.
Klinsmann said he felt he had left a legacy that could be built upon and that Löw was the best man to succeed him.
"The only sensible option has been to ask Joachim to lead them further," he said. "I am very glad that he has taken up this challenge."
Löw, a former midfielder and Bundesliga coach who worked closely with Klinsmann over the past two years and comes from the same region in southwest Germany, has agreed on a two-year contract to coach the team.
The 46-year-old said he would continue with Klinsmann's approach.
"That's the only way we can achieve a lasting place among the very best in the world," Löw said.