With Oliver Bierhoff apparently past his prime and Carsten Jancker somewhat short of international quality, young Kaiserslautern striker Miroslav Klose looks like the answer to the attacking prayers of German national team coach Rudi Voller.
Only six months after starting his first Bundesliga game, Klose earned his first international call-up for the February friendly against France and though he stayed on the bench that night, his moment was soon to come.
Called into the action late in the World Cup qualifier against Albania the following month, he earned himself hero status by scoring a dramatic winner two minutes from time that kept the Germans clear at the top of their group. All the signs point to him enjoying a long-term future leading the German line.
The 22-year-old, Poland-born striker is reminiscent of Jurgen Klinsmann, with the same exuberance, athleticism and blistering pace. Not only is he a magnificent finisher, but his speed and skill make him a brilliant focal point for counter-attacks.
The self-assured Klose has been one of the headlining acts of a ‘Lauterer’ side who have recovered from a disastrous start to the season to push for a Champions League spot. Voller is clearly an admirer, saying: ‘I have been impressed by his flair for goals, speed and strong heading. In Klose and Christian Timm of Koln we have a pair of young forwards with huge potential.’
Voller’s delight mirrored the displeasure of Poland coach Jerzy Engel. On discovering Klose had Polish parents and lived there until he was nine, he tried to persuade the youngster to join his squad.
However, Klose turned down Engel’s approach at the turn of this year and nailed his colours to the German mast. ‘While I do have dual nationality, I feel that football-wise I’m German,’ he said.’I play in the Bundesliga and it would be a dream to play for Germany.’
There was always a strong possibility Klose would be a sportsman of some merit. His mother, Barbara, represented Poland 82 times at handball, while his father, Josef, was an outstanding right-winger for Polish club Odra Opole, then Auxerre in France, helping the latter, then a Second Division club, to reach the Cup Final in 1979 and promotion to the top flight the following year.
Clearly, Klose has inherited his father’s electrifying style and put it to good effect since moving to Kaiserslautern from regional league side FC Homburg in summer1999. He scored 16 goals for the ‘Lauterer’ amateurs last term before this season’s exploits in the big time.
One of coach Otto Rehhagel’s last acts before his resignation last September was to pitch Klose into the first team. Quite a farewell gift.
Born June 9, 1978, in Opole, Poland
Previous clubs SG Blaubach-Diedelkopf, FC Homburg
International debut March 2001, v Albania
International caps 1 (1 goal)