Klinsmann questions catering to stars
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann criticized what he sees as an American custom of sports teams catering to star players, in quotes released on Wednesday.
Klinsmann, who left star midfielder Landon Donovan off the U.S. World Cup squad last month, singled out the NBA as ignoring his philosophy of favoring a player's future potential over past accomplishments.
The German native told The New York Times Magazine in December that he could not understand why the Los Angeles Lakers would give Kobe Bryant a two-year contract extension for $48.5 million, when the 35-year-old basketball icon's best days are likely behind him.
"This always happens in America," Klinsmann said in the interview, which was released on Wednesday. "Kobe Bryant, for example -- why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?"
Five months later, Klinsmann had to decide whether to bring the 32-year-old Donovan to a fourth World Cup, after Donovan had spent the first three months of 2013 on a self-imposed sabbatical away from his sport.
Although Donovan returned to play well for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Klinsmann did not immediately invite him back to compete in World Cup qualifiers for the U.S.
The time off was part of what led to Donovan's omission from the World Cup, the Times Magazine reported, as Klinsmann was "put off by what he saw as Donovan's inconsistent motivation," and did not think Donovan was the same player as before.
"He came back, and he was playing in MLS, and people say, 'Oh, he's playing well,' but what does that really mean?" Klinsmann said. "This is where MLS hurts him. He was playing at 70 percent, 80 percent, and he was still dominant. That doesn't help anyone.
"I watched the games. What was I supposed to say? That he was good? He was not good. Not then. No way. So he had to wait."
In the wide-ranging profile piece, Klinsmann also reiterated statements that his job is as much to show consistent growth and improvement in the U.S. program as it is to win the World Cup.
Klinsmann signed a new contract last year that will take him through the 2018 World Cup, likely securing his future no matter the result of this month's tournament. And at the time, Klinsmann expressed severe doubts that the U.S. could succeed in Brazil, where they will face a stacked deck of Ghana, Portugal and Germany in the group stage.
"We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet," Klinsmann told the magazine in December. "For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.
"Realistically, it is not possible."