German legend Sepp Maier will no longer train the country's top goalkeepers after falling out with team chief Jürgen Klinsmann after entering the heated debate over who should be Germany's Number 1.
Maier added his weight to the German goalie feud and lost his job
The German national soccer team may have dispensed with Iran in a classy display during the World Cup preparation friendly at the weekend but there was little dignity to report in the events that were announced in the aftermath of Germany's latest positive step towards the 2006 finals.
A day after Germany had secured a 2-0 win with an experimental squad of younger and less established international stars, team chief Jürgen Klinsmann announced that goalkeeping coach Sepp Maier would no longer hold the position as the man responsible for training the country's top keepers while on international duty.
A statement released on Sunday announced that Maier, a member of Germany's 1974 World Cup winning team and one of the country's top all-time goalies, had come to an agreement with the German Soccer Federation (DFB) to end their working relationship after 17 years.
Andreas Koepke, Klinsmann and team manager Oliver Bierhoff's teammate from the 1996 European championship winning team, is the favorite to fill the post.
Maier's sacking linked to keeper feud
Maier's departure comes at a time when his charges -- Germany's top keepers Bayern Munich's Oliver Kahn and Arsenal's Jens Lehmann -- continue to air their feud in public. Both Kahn and Lehmann have made a claim of the Number One jersey and have often stooped to personal abuse in their campaigns to unseat and unsettle the other.
The feud between the two shot-stoppers seems to have cost Sepp Maier his job as Klinsmann continues to assert an increasingly tight strangle hold on team affairs. Maier angered Klinsmann last week by going public with remarks that Oliver Kahn was better than rival Lehmann.
The goalkeeping legend, who is also Kahn's goalie coach at Bayern Munich, was warned by Klinsmann for similar comments last month. Maier had demanded the coach give Kahn unequivocal backing as the country's first choice keeper.
Number One jersey up for grabs, says coach
The Germany coach has broken with the tradition of having a designated Number One by saying that Kahn, a two-time FIFA keeper of the year, remains first choice at the moment, but that Lehmann (photo) would get his chance to earn the job. Klinsmann has gone on record by saying, "It's an open position just like every other on the team."
Maier appears to have paid the price for crossing Klinsmann and for stoking the fires of the simmering goalie argument. Oliver Bierhoff, the Germany team manager under Klinsmann, told reporters on Sunday that Maier had been spoken to before agreeing to step down. "We made it clear to him that it can't go on like this," he said.
Matthaeus anger at "cold-blooded killer"
The apparent forcing-out of Maier has prompted harsh criticism from former Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus. The World Cup-winning skipper and international cap record holder told the Munich Tageszeitung newspaper on Monday that Klinsmann was a "cold-blooded killer" for sacking goalkeeping coach Maier.
"Jürgen is going his way in a cold-blooded manner," Matthaeus said. "He's a killer -- in the past on the pitch and now in the DFB. There's no humanity left. He's letting heads roll to accomplish his aims."
No quarter in bid for World Cup glory
Klinsmann is in the midst of a huge shake-up of the three time World Champions as he attempts to rebuild a side which he hopes will achieve great things come 2006 and bring the coveted title back to Germany.
The message being sent out appears to be one that petty arguments that threaten to distract the team and the coach from that aim will be sorted out by Klinsmann if they cannot be resolved by the people involved.
Keepers to be warned
Klinsmann is likely to tackle the two goalies, whose rivalry has generated steady headlines in Germany and is regarded as a source of tension on the team, head on to end the feud once and for all. "Jürgen will make it clear to both 'keepers before the next cap that they have to follow the rules," Bierhoff said. "Bluntly said, they should keep their mouths shut and concentrate on their performances."
Other figures, namely Germany' soccer monarch Franz Beckenbauer, have complained about the goalkeeping stand-off. "This is starting to get on people's nerves," said Beckenbauer, the most influential soccer figure in Germany. "The two of them have to start getting along. They have to start showing some respect for each other."