BERLIN – Jürgen Klinsmann surprisingly resigned as coach of Hertha Berlin on Tuesday after only nine Bundesliga games.
The former Germany and United States coach said in a statement on Facebook that he “cannot live up to my potential as coach and therefore cannot live up to my responsibility” without the trust from people at the club.
“That’s why, after long thought, I came to the conclusion to make my position as coach of Hertha available and return to my original long-term task as a supervisory board member,” Klinsmann wrote.
Much was expected of Klinsmann when he was appointed coach on Nov. 27, helped by an extensive backroom staff. He was supposed to deliver on the promise provided by a $250 million investment from new backer Lars Windhorst and lead Hertha up the standings toward the European qualification places. But the team is still fighting off relegation.
Klinsmann’s decision to quit caught Hertha by surprise, with the players and general manager Michael Preetz only finding out on Tuesday morning before he made the announcement on Facebook.
“The coach came into the changing room. We thought it would be about the analysis of the last game. And then he told us," Hertha midfielder Marko Grujic said after training. "We were completely surprised.”
Preetz suggested the decision came as a shock, “especially after the trustful cooperation regarding decisions over personnel in the winter transfer period, there was no sign of it. We will inform of further developments at the appropriate time."
Assistant coach Alexander Nouri was set to take temporary charge of the team.
Klinsmann later told German mass daily Bild that he wanted a bigger role at Hertha with responsibility for transfers – a job currently carried out by Preetz as general manager.
“In my understanding a coach should bear all responsibility for sporting matters, as per the English model. That gives the position much more power,” Klinsmann said.
The 55-year-old said stepping down was not a spontaneous decision.
“In the past few days we received clear reactions and indications that the situation is not getting any better, but worsening,” Klinsmann told Bild.
Hertha was in 15th place in the 18-team Bundesliga when Klinsmann took over from Ante Covic, and is only one place better off now. Hertha managed only three wins in nine league games under Klinsmann and Saturday’s 3-1 loss at home to Mainz left it just six points above the relegation zone — four days after it was knocked out of the German Cup in extra time at Schalke.
Klinsmann called Hertha a “sleeping giant.” He was consulted on player signings as Hertha made its first splash on the transfer market following Windhorst’s investment. Hertha signed Matheus Cunha from Leipzig, Krzysztof Piatek from AC Milan, Santiago Ascacibar from Stuttgart and Lucas Tousart from Lyon, as its transfer spending in January reached an estimated 76 million euros ($83 million).
Windhorst, who had brought Klinsmann to the club, had been given advance warning.
“I learned of the decision yesterday,” Windhorst said. “I very much regret this step from Jürgen Klinsmann.”
Klinsmann had a long association with Hertha through his father Siegfried, who was from Eberswalde near Berlin and was a fan, and his son Jonathan, who was a reserve goalkeeper for Hertha from 2017 until last year when he moved to Swiss club St. Gallen. Siegfried died in 2005.
As a player, Klinsmann enjoyed a glittering career as a prolific striker for clubs in Germany, Italy, France and England. He won the World Cup and European Championship. His coaching career began with Germany in 2004 and he had mixed fortunes coaching Bayern Munich before taking over the U.S. national team.
Klinsmann told news agency dpa on Monday that he was happy working with Windhorst.
“I met him for 10 minutes in a bank ... on the way to Tegel airport. We didn’t know each other at the time," Klinsmann said. "He told me, ‘I need you at my side because I don’t know the ropes in football. You tell me if I’m doing right or wrong.’”
Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP