Tottenham Hotspur legends: Jurgen Klinsmann

It takes quite some player to become a cult icon in under two seasons at a club, but that is exactly what Jurgen Klinsmann managed to do at Tottenham Hotpsur.

The striker was on the brink of his 30th birthday and had already enjoyed a stellar career by the time he decided to test himself in the Premier League with Spurs ahead of the 1994-95 season.

A rare breed in that he succeeded pretty much wherever he went across a number of countries, it was no different in England as Klinsmann won the hearts of the Tottenham faithful in two separate spells at White Hart Lane.

Having first been noticed as a youngster in Bundesliga 2 with Stuttgarter Kickers, he eventually progressed to the Stuttgart first team and had spells with Inter Milan and Monaco before arriving at Tottenham in July ‘94.

It is easy to forget just what a villainous figure Klinsmann was on English shores at that point; it would have been enough simply that he was a member of the Germany side who knocked England out of the World Cup at the semi-final stage in 1990, but he was also burdened by a reputation as a diver and a cheat.

Nonetheless, he tackled that perception head on in his first press conference, jokingly enquiring as to whether there were any diving schools in London, and took it a step further on his league debut in August.

After scoring a bullet header in a see-sawing 4-3 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, the forward’s celebration saw him dive full length onto the turf and straight into footballing folklore.

It is fair to say that those who hail from Klinsmann’s home country are not renowned for their sense of humour, but he put that stereotype to bed in an instant and quickly set about winning over the viewing public.

His sole full season at Spurs could hardly have been a greater success as he bagged a total of 30 goals in 50 appearances, including 21 in 41 Premier League outings, whilst also netting regularly during his side’s run to the FA Cup semi-finals.

That form earned him the coveted Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year award, although he could only help Tottenham to a seventh-placed finish in the final table.

And with that, he was gone.

Bayern Munich called him home and he continued his success story there as he picked up a second UEFA Cup to add to the one he won with Inter, notably setting a goalscoring record in the competition along the way of 15 in 12 matches.

A return to Italy with Sampdoria was arguably the low point of his time as a player, but it was that which ultimately led him back to North London midway through the 1997-98 term.

Tottenham were floundering near the foot of the Premier League and Klinsmann was parachuted in as a last throw of the dice to secure top-flight safety.

After a bright start, the goals dried up, raising fears that he was past his best, but six strikes in the last three league games of the season proved beyond doubt that the German had never really lost his touch.

He netted a remarkable four in the 6-2 triumph over Wimbledon which ultimately sealed survival and the final-day 1-1 draw with Southampton at the Lane, in which he scored the home side’s only goal, provided a fitting send-off as Klinsmann brought to an end his time at the very highest level.

Whilst still clearly able to perform in the Premier League, he opted to bow out at the peak of his powers and leave memories of his greatness fresh in the minds of those who bore witness to it.

No-one wants to see a fan favourite in decline and he departed with everyone wanting more, but treasuring what he had already given them.

Becoming the kind of legend that Klinsmann is at Tottenham in such a short period of time requires not only outstanding talent, but personality, flair and just a hint of eccentricity.

The hitman has all of that and then some; he is even a qualified commercial helicopter pilot, surely a must for any cult hero?

Perhaps most important, though, is to make an impact that transcends those 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, to affect the way people think and feel and to come up with the goods when everyone is relying on you.

Klinsmann was more than just a gifted footballer; he carried the hopes of the crowd on his back and across his brief spells was the man that the fans turned to when the pressure was really on.

He was almost a mythical figure, a player of such character and skill that it scarcely seems believable that he graced what was in all fairness an upper-mid table Spurs team.

Few have embodied the culture of the club in such a way in the intervening years and that is why he still has a permanent home in the hearts of Tottenham supporters.