Klinsmann is 33, yet he still retains the earnest cheerfulness of the young German backpacker he once was and when I met him at a Derbyshire country hotel last week I half expected him to be carrying a rucksack with one of those "Nuclear Power? Nein Danke!" stickers on it. He was over here with Sampdoria, his latest club, to play a friendly to mark the opening of Derby County's Pride Park stadium.
In 1995 Klinsmann was voted Footballer of the Year by the English football writers at the end of his season with Tottenham, but his departure for Bayern Munich, after he'd invoked a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave after 12 months, induced a monumental rage in the Spurs chairman Alan Sugar, who went so far as to toss his former striker's number 18 shirt on the floor during a TV programme with the words "I wouldn't even wash my car with that." But the two have since made up, to the extent that Klinsmann sent a video greeting to Sugar for a This Is Your Life- style celebration of his 50th birthday in March.
"I had a wonderful experience playing for Tottenham," Klinsmann told me, "but if you look back now it was the totally right decision to leave because they told me they wanted to build up a team which is able to play for the championship title, and they still don't have that team. For me, it was a chance to play for titles immediately when I left for Bayern Munich."
And how. In his first season with Bayern, the club won the Uefa Cup. In his second, they won the German championship. But there was a dark subtext to all this, a story of feuds and resentment which made his altercation with Sugar seem like a minor spat in comparison. Klinsmann and the veteran sweeper Lothar Matthaus, whom the former replaced as captain of the German national side, sniped at each other constantly in the German press, while Klinsmann's relationship with coach Giovanni Trapattoni, whom he accused of negativity, reached an all-time low in May when Trapattoni took him off during a match and replaced him with an amateur. Klinsmann's wrath led him to kick a large hole in an advertising hoarding as he left the pitch.
Not surprisingly, Klinsmann's name had long been linked with a move this summer and the names of several English clubs had been mentioned, including Tottenham, but in the end he settled for a one-year contract at Sampdoria, because he likes the club's family atmosphere and because Italy is where he wants to settle down. As usual, he did the deal himself, because he doesn't have an agent.
"People are paid millions of dollars for just a couple of phone calls, it's ridiculous," he said. "All you need is a tax consultant and a lawyer to make sure the contract is legal and you pay them the fees that they normally get from any other clients. If a player isn't able to handle his own business pretty much by himself it's a pity, because you could save all those millions and put the money into the youth side of the clubs instead of filling up the agents' pockets."
I wanted to know what he had learnt from playing in so many countries. "First of all, to take people the way they are and not the way I want them to be," he said.
"In Germany we have that mentality - we want people the way we are. When I first went to Italy I had a real problem. In Italy, if you have an appointment at 10 o'clock, they show up at four in the afternoon, so if you still think German you go nuts."
After leading his side into next summer's World Cup (assuming they qualify, which is not yet certain) he says he'll retire from international football. And in two or three years he'll retire from club football too, although he's not sure what he'll do instead. In a typically sensible way he intends to take a year off to get things in perspective before he makes any decisions. But of course there's that World Cup first.
"If Germany lose in the semi-final or the quarter-final, it's a disappointment," he said. "If you end up as a runner-up, the people are not happy with you."
Table-dancing with Humphrys
The full force of the Daily Mail's moral indignation came crashing down on the head of Alan Whitehead last week. Whitehead is the owner of a new table dancing club called Secrets in west London where customers pay pounds 10 for a woman to take their clothes off in front of them.
"An evening in Secrets is like being saturated in sleaze," frothed the Mail, who wondered "what could happen inside the mind of the non-average man, the one with unnatural attitudes, and what he might do when, having been brought to the very edge of seduction and left there, he walks out alone into the night."
"I don't understand it," Whitehead told me. He was clearly still smarting the day after his public flogging. "I just do not understand the logic of the English, where anything to do with female nudity has to be brought down to a sleaze thing." Whitehead was the drummer in Marmalade in the late Sixties ("Ob-la-di ob-la-da", etc) and since then he says he's been "managing girls, that's all I've done. I just seem to have a forte in managing women."
But is he, as the Daily Mail suggests, promoting "a deeply sinister activity which serves only to deepen our moral decline"?
"I think there are far more things that are deepening our moral decline than table dancing," said Whitehead, who was somewhat happier with an article in the London Evening Standard written by John Humphrys, who lives nearby and had visited the club to find out what goes on there. "He accepted that it's a long way from the dingy rip-off clubs that flourish in this country and that have been tolerated for so long," he said. "But whether he'd want to go to a table dancing club again is a different thing altogether...
Di gets Dannii's blessing
"Leading a hectic work and social life, she epitomises the independent woman of the Nineties," it says on the press release announcing that Dannii Minogue is the new face of Diet Pepsi, or rather "great new-tasting Diet Pepsi", as the Pepsi people put it. Indeed so hectic is her work and social life that she was asleep in the back of a car at 10.30 in the morning when I rang her. She was on her way to Brighton for an appearance at the Radio One Roadshow to plug her new single, the first in three years, which is released tomorrow. She told me she approves of the new Diet Pepsi taste (no surprises there) and revealed that because she's hypoglycaemic she can't drink things with sugar in them anyway. But what I really wanted to know from the epitome of the independent woman of the Nineties was what she thought about the week's most significant news event - Diana, Princess of Wales's new romance.
"I think the girl's allowed to go out and have a nice evening," said Dannii. "I can't believe nobody says anything about Prince Charles having had an affair for years and years and years and yet she goes out on a dinner date and it's big news. I think she's fabulous. I love her."
And this week's crank is...
Since we're in the middle of the so-called Silly Season, it seemed like a good time to introduce an exciting new element to this page - Crank of the Week.
That's right. So come on down, Don Stallybrass of Bognor Regis. Don is 76 and is obsessed with the number 42. He wrote to me recently pointing out that my near-namesake Tom Hulce played Mozart in Amadeus and in the Harmsworth Encyclopedia of 1906 there's a picture of Mozart on page 4,242. Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, and there's a neat little postscript. When I rang Don, he'd just heard that a computer has generated Mozart's 42nd symphony. You can imagine how excited he was.
Don's obsession began many years ago when he noticed that the telephone number of the King's Theatre in Southsea was a multiple of 42. There was also a horse called King's Theatre running in the Derby and he backed it and it came second. "So that sort of started me off," he said. Quite. Don also believes that he's the reincarnation of the Roman poet Propertius. "Am I a bit of a crank? Oh yes," he said cheerfully.
Video suits the radio star
"I don't really know what a cult figure is. I'm just going on in my sweet little way," former Slade frontman Noddy Holder told me when I asked him whether he'd now acquired cult status. Certainly the evidence is hard to ignore - not only did Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer do a regular Slade pastiche on their show, but Oasis even covered one of the band's songs, "Cum On Feel The Noize", last year. Holder left Slade in 1992 because he was fed up with touring and wanted to try other things. These days, he has his own radio show in Manchester, he recently appeared with Jack Dee and Samantha Janus in a one-off TV play called The Grimleys which he hopes will be turned into a series and he's also just started a pop quiz on Granada satellite TV. "I don't miss having to tear around the world or having to work to tight schedules all the time," he said. "I'm just happy with my own little life that I'm leading."Reuse content