Klinsmann plays the diplomat

Guy Hodgson hears Germany's captain spread the word in Manchester
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The Independent Online
Typical. You try to stage the first official press conference of Euro 96 and you find the Germans have got there first. The public relations skirmishes prior to the competition proper began in earnest yesterday, and it was not exactly a surprise to find them wrapped in a red black and gold flag.

A masterpiece of conquering hearts and minds it was too. England's favourite German, Jurgen Klinsmann, had been dispatched from his country's training camp in Northern Ireland to charm Manchester: a trained diplomat could not have done better. The man would probably move his towel to let you get at the sunbed.

The newly elected mayor, Councillor Derek Shaw, received a German shirt with his name printed on the back, it was announced that Bert Trautmann, Manchester City's former goalkeeper, will be a guest of honour throughout the European Championship, and even British beef got the Klinsmann seal of approval.

"Yes, I'll eat British beef," Klinsmann said while scotching rumours that the Germans will be flying in crate loads of homegrown steaks because of the BSE scare. "I had British beef last season at Tottenham when I played probably some of the best football of my career and was voted player of the year. There's still nothing wrong with me. I have no problems.

"It's a big story in the German media but we don't worry about it. We won't be bringing our own meat over here. Our bags will be full of football kit. We will eat English food and we will drink English beer."

Having dealt with the BSE question more elegantly than most politicians currently, the state of the England football team was a doddle. "They are among the favourites," the 31-year-old German captain said, "but I think they have a better chance because they are playing at home. They have a side full of quality players and a manager who seems to have blended individuals together. We have a lot of respect for them."

Asked why English clubs have not done better in Europe, he replied: "That's a different subject. It goes back to their being suspended for a long time from European competition and maybe the style doesn't suit European competitions. It's attacking football, very fast and exciting, but it leads to mistakes and in Europe that's a problem.

"The England team are different. Terry Venables has built round Paul Gascoigne but there are other gifted players like Teddy Sheringham, Nick Barmby and Darren Anderton."

Klinsmann even went in for something guaranteed to warm English souls: a bit of Euro bashing. The German misses the first match of the campaign on 9 June against the Czech Republic because he received two yellow cards in the qualification games. It is something he feels is iniquitous.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," he said. "Being suspended from such a big tournament, I can't understand it. No England players are suspended because they didn't have to play any qualifying games while the Netherlands had to play an extra game. I can't believe Uefa [the governing body of European football] ignored these facts. The countries were asked if the rules should be changed but the Czechs and the Danish voted against it. The Czechs I understand because they play us first, but the Danes? Uefa are always talking about fair play, then this happens."

Lastly, he was asked what would be his ideal final. "Oh, England against Germany, for sure," he replied, before turning his mind to another famous meeting. "But the third goal... maybe we should use the same ball again." Much more of this and we will be handing Geoff Hurst's ball back.