V-neck jumper, ‘moptop’ hairstyle, sipping coffee in the dugout. Joachim Löw is not your average national team manager.
While it’s true he may look like Germany’s answer to Professor Brian Cox, the above statement goes further than simply his haircut and penchant for quality knitwear.
Indeed, he may well be considered a professor in his own right, well known was he as the tactical brains in the dugout alongside Jurgen Klinsmann.
He has transformed a slow, ageing German side into one of the youngest, most dynamic teams in world football, capable of breaking on the counter-attack at an exhilarating pace and tearing through all before them like the Tasmanian Devil, leaving nothing but debris and tumbleweed in their wake.
That may be stretching into hyperbole, but the point remains: Germany are far better under Löw than they were without him. However, his path to the national team wasn’t as easy or obvious as one might think.
His playing career as a striker saw him take in spells with the likes of Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt, and Karlsruher SC, which saw him make only 52 appearances and score a paltry seven goals.
His biggest success, as a player at least, came with SC Freiburg. He started his senior career with the ‘Breisgau Brazilians’, and went on to have three different spells with the club (1978-80; 1982-84; 1985-89), scoring 71 goals in 252 games.
He originally began coaching while still playing at Swiss outfit FC Winterthur, before becoming player-coach with another Swiss side, FC Frauenfeld.
He returned to Stuttgart (where he had an unsuccessful spell as a player from 1981-82) as assistant manager to Rolf Fringer. When Fringer left, ‘Jogi’ was given the manager’s job, initially on a caretaker and then eventually permanent basis.
Under Löw, Stuttgart won the DFB-Pokal (aka DFB Cup) in 1997, which was the first time they had lifted the trophy in almost 40 years. A year later he led them to the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they lost 1-0 to Gianluca Vialli’s Chelsea.
After that, he seemingly wandered through the managerial wilderness, drifting from club-to-club but never really staying long enough to make much of an impact.
Between leaving Stuttgart in ’98 and joining the national team coaching staff in 2004, Löw managed Fenerbache, Karlsruher SC, Adanaspor, FC Tirol Innsbruck (where he won the Austrian Championship) and finally FK Austria Wien. It’s hardly a CV that screams Germany’s next manager.
Klinsmann brought in Löw to help his rebuilding of the nationalmannschaft, which had failed so miserably at Euro 2004. Together they developed a blueprint for success – a quick, dynamic, attack-minded side capable of turning defence into offence in an instant.
With a World Cup to prepare for, they choose to ingrain the philosophy at U21 level and below. The 2006 World Cup itself was a success, with Germany finishing third, but now we are seeing the true fruits of the labour put in by Klinsmann and Löw. It is also worth noting that it was Klinsmann who, when deciding to leave the national team, insisted his assistant get the job.
Get the job he did, and now he is getting the job done. He led them to the Euro 2008 final and the 2010 World Cup semi-final; bested, on both occasions, by a Spanish side who could lay claim to being the best in the world.
Now, with key players peaking and more exciting youngsters than you can fit on a plane to Poland & Ukraine, Löw is on the cusp of finishing what he helped start eight years ago.