Football: Klinsmann dives in at the deep end: Tottenham Hotspur's German striker confronts his detractors and starts the show with a joke

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The Independent Online
TWO of this nation's myriad obsessions, with Germans and gamesmanship, were gently mocked by a smiling foreigner yesterday. Jurgen Klinsmann, the tabloids' 'Stuka Dive Bomber', rolled into White Hart Lane and enquired: 'Are there any diving schools in London?'

Maybe Tottenham Hotspur's affable new signing was contemplating opening such an establishment. Glowing references would readily be supplied by defenders like Milan's Alessandro Costacurta, who have experienced Klinsmann's knack of meeting rough with tumble.

Although delivered light- heartedly, the German's remark was singularly astute, pre-empting as it did repeated probings into his occasionally theatrical approach.

'If people take it so seriously (the diving stories) maybe I can invite them for a couple of beers and they can show me the tape of when it happened,' said the man branded by one newspaper as 'football's supreme conman'. 'I can't remember any occasions.'

This seemed to satisfy his inquisitors, although Klinsmann is intelligent enough to know that other clubs' supporters will already be working on 'diving' chants. It can only be a matter of time before 'He's big; he's blond; he practises in the pond' is heard around Highbury.

'If they start to provoke me,' Klinsmann replied, 'I will just try to play good football. It's not a problem.'

Clearly not. Klinsmann, untroubled by the oppressive humidity gripping the Bill Nicholson Suite, possesses a sense of togetherness, and worldliness, not usually present in other dressing- room dwellers. The 30-year- old back-packs, espouses environmental causes, speaks four languages and insists that money is only a minor motivation now. 'I will earn less here than at Monaco,' he stressed. 'I've made enough to live well after my career.'

Klinsmann, who makes his debut at Watford tomorrow, appears to be an adventurer, experiencing a country and its customs before moving on. With such a relaxed, peripatetic nature, the problems bedevilling Spurs are dismissed with a shrug. 'I also have had a couple of crises in my career. In my third year with Inter Milan, things were not that nice. When I went out, even with a baseball cap and sunglasses on, they recognise you and say things.'

Klinsmann, flanked by Ossie Ardiles and Alan Sugar, needed little protection. When the lawyer, the baker and the computer-maker were asked how much Klinsmann was being paid, the player himself responded: 'Every month.'

The former World Cup- winner has certainly revived Spurs' expectations. Season- ticket sales are 'red-hot', the club-shop has run out of Klinsmann shirts and the six- point deficit is now considered a negligible handicap. 'It's only two matches,' Sugar said. 'If the whole squad are as spurred on as I am, there is no reason why we can't win the championship.'

Brave talk, as was the chairman's desire to continue battling the Football Association. 'These signings are my way of hitting back at our friends at Lancaster Gate,' Sugar said. 'We are having a continuing dialogue with the FA about the FA Cup ban.'

Also pending are new signings, although Ardiles refused to reveal whether Phil Babb, Coventry's accomplished centre-half, was among 'two or three possibilities'.

When alerted that Barcelona might release the errant Romario, Sugar mused: 'He might get in our reserves.'

Hope and humour has returned to White Hart Lane.

(Photograph omitted)

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