Number 16: Miroslav Klose
Club Team: Bayern Munich
American-Based Professional Sport “Soulmate”: Tomas Holmström, Winger, Detroit Red Wings
Miroslav Klose is a poacher. He’s the talented executor of the ugly goal. He uses phenomenal instincts and more skill than most box-exclusive strikers to get the job done better than any other “garbage goal” scorer in the world. He’s a trash man in a three piece suit.
Don’t let the terms thrown around to describe this style of player fool you either. Most teams search far and wide for a player who can clean up all the scuffed balls and redirected shots in the box. Manchester United have been searching for years for a player who could recreated the performances of Ruud Van Nistelrooy, mostly to little avail (Dmitar Berbatov anyone).
And while Van Nistelrooy used to represent the gold standard in finely suited garbage goal poachers, the torch has been well and truly passed to Mr. Klose. He is the World Cup’s reigning Golden Boot winner, slotting home five goals in 2006. And why not? He had to keep pace with the five World Cup goals that he scored in 2002 to help propel Germany to the World Cup Final. But of course he was overshadowed by the flashy play of young Ronaldinho. Don’t worry about Miroslav though; he’s more than used to it.
Klose has the strange fortune of constantly being surrounded by high profile media darlings, team drama, and in many cases an unholy combination of both. Here are a few examples of current and former teammates that took the spotlight off of the consummate goal scorer while he’s kept his head down, or up, or to the side; basically wherever the ball is.
Lukas Podolski – The Beckham of Germany, Podolski was a want-away heartthrob during his time on Bayern Munich with Klose. He spent much of ’08 and ’09 mired in rather unpleasant controversy concerning his intent to swap Bayern for Cologne.
Luca Toni – The Italian hero transferred to Bayern at the same time as Klose. Miroslav spent the ensuing couple seasons scoring goals while Toni made headlines through injury, vocalizing his displeasure with his place in the side, and falling out with the manager.
Franck Ribéry – Though Ribéry never invites the headlines his mouth, his superior play makes him a constant transfer target for the biggest spending clubs in the world. The former Marseille man is forced to address rumors about Real Madrid and Chelsea seemingly every week.
I could prattle on about Schweinsteiger’s temper, Philipp Lahm’s mouth, and managers like Joachim Löw and Jürgen Klinsmann, but I won’t.
Klose’s non-soccer “soulmate” Tomas Holmström can tell the same story, just on ice. The Detroit Red Wing and Sweden star is the consummate stand-in-front-of-the-net power forward, and his consistent goal scoring record on both the club and international level make him one of hockey’s least talked about premier players.
Like Klose, Holmström is constantly surrounded by flashier stars and he gets taken for granted by fans and media because of it. The Red Wings like to sign high profile free agents like Marian Hossa and Brett Hull who always come with storylines and in many cases saber rattling. Compound that needless drama with a decade long goaltending controversy in Detroit that’s had more leading men and wannabes than Days of our Lives, and Tomas can absolutely smell what The Klose is cookin’.
But while Klose and Holmström are overshadowed and underappreciated, no team that features either player will ever lack that crucial final touch. The havoc that Holmström created in front of net was key to Sweden’s Olympic gold medal performance in 2006, and Klose can reasonably expect the Germans to put together a run for the Cup in SA, especially if he’s at his disruptive, goal-poaching best. Germany will contend with Australia, Ghana, and Serbia in group play, and while both the Africans and the Aussies get stuck in defensively; no center back on either of those teams will be able to shut Miroslav down. But set your DVR’s for the Germany/Serbia match on June 18th when Klose and Nemanja Vidic take ninety minutes to test each other’s mettle. God, I love the World Cup.
Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @TYAC_Jon.