TFC's hiring of Klinsmann raises questions

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:51 PM ET

TORONTO - Jurgen Klinsmann as consultant at Toronto FC continues to confuse more than it does explain.

There’s a sense of romanticism about it all; a soccer legend as such and a visionary to boot, coming in and setting Toronto FC’s new directive is compelling.  And the overall thought process behind having the German influence a club short on soccer acumen and experience is a prudent one. 

But it must be asked whether Jurgen Klinsmann as club visionary makes more sense in thought than practice.

Questioning Klinsmann’s purpose at the club has absolutely nothing to do with the man himself.  Klinsmann is a charmer.  His California khakis and laid-back demeanor to match are refreshing.  He’s a thinker and a knowledgeable soccer mind.  He’s connected.  And the depth of his desire to discover Toronto and cultivate a soccer identity that represents who we are and what we value is worthwhile in itself.

This theoretical, wide-reaching approach resonates and would have been welcome Day One at the club.  But should such an important directive be coming from an individual without any long-term future at Toronto FC?

Although rather poetic in verse Thursday, Klinsmann did not mince words in saying he was not interested in a permanent, full-time position at Toronto FC.  The consulting role is merely an “interesting opportunity” for him and his soccer marketing company, Soccer Solutions.  The work should be done by the start of next season.

With his business confidante by his side, one has to ask whether forging a relationship with Toronto FC as a short-term consultant has more to do in advancing business goals for Klinsmann and his company than it does about developing something substantial, such as a soccer identity for Toronto.

On the surface, Klinsmann’s directive seems sincere. He’s believable. He’s passionate.  And forming new, mutually beneficial business relationships are fine and a massive part of the game.  And hopefully the presence of Klinsmann’s business partner in all Toronto FC-related manners is just the side dish that comes along with the entree.  Don’t fill yourself up on bread before the actual meal.

So rather than questioning Klinsmann’s motives, the better question to ask is why is Klinsmann, a man who will not stay in Toronto, or has any loyalty to the franchise or the city, the right man to set TFC’s new directive?

Quite frankly, a title of ‘consultant’ completely removes any kind of accountability from the equation. Klinsmann acknowledged Thursday he has only been hired to recommend, and all decisions still fall on the shoulders of executive vicepresident and COO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Tom Anselmi. 

What these decisions will pertain to in their entirety remains a mystery. Klinsmann will recommend based on his future findings. All in all, Anselmi is doing the right thing in being thorough; demanding a top-to-bottom inspection of what the club needs to move forward. But the most important move is always going to be in choosing the next director of soccer and head coach.

So most likely, the German was simply understating what his role will actually be. Or perhaps he doesn’t quite understand how much help the club needs in making such important decisions.  It’s doubtful Anselmi or anyone currently at Toronto FC will question the recommendations of such a widely experienced individual. The important hires will be Klinsmann’s doing.

But the question remains, why Klinsmann? Why put your trust in a consultant rather than hiring your own full-time management team for the club to set the new directive?

As my colleague Steve Simmons eluded to in yesterday’s Toronto Sun, hiring others to make sporting decisions is what MLSE does best.  As Simmons pointed out, the Toronto Maple Leafs felt the need to hire a search group to tell them Ken Holland or Brian Burke was best suited for their General Managerial position.  Talk about Captain Obvious.

Many big names have been linked to the open positions at the club without Klinsmann’s influence.  Are you telling me a vastly experienced Carlos Queiroz or a Roberto Donadoni couldn’t bring their own individual approaches to the club and make it work?

What makes Klinsmann so special? He admitted Thursday he’s never taken part in an undertaking as such, influencing the build of a club from top to bottom.  Attempting to understand our culture, our mentality, dreams and wishes is a nice thought, but practical implementation is what’s needed.

An identity and philosophy are needed at the club, and Klinsmann is a visionary: but a vision is only as good as its implementation.  Any vision, no matter how grandiose, is nothing without proper execution. 

It simply seems Klinsmann’s short-term involvement at the club potentially convolutes a process that could have been more direct with a full-time hiring of a director of soccer committed to Toronto.

This isn’t meant to come down on MLSE.  They are doing what they believe is right. They are doing what they believe they need. They’ve acknowledged their shortcomings and moving forward. 

Chances are Klinsmann may very well succeed. MLS is all about parity anyway; three of the final four left in MLS playoffs last year didn’t make the playoffs.  And the other went from worst to first in a matter of two years.  And if Toronto FC can make a dramatic turnaround as such, Klinsmann will be heralded.

New eyes and new thoughts are clearly welcome. With Klinsmann comes a new chapter, a fresh start.

Toronto FC’s just hoping this German-made band-aid sticks longer than the Scottish one.


Videos

Photos