Klinsmann: U.S. 'cannot win this World Cup,' compares Donovan to Kobe as aging, overpaid star

Navin Vaswani
REUTERS/Mike Segar

German head coach of the United States' World Cup squad Jurgen Klinsmann was profiled in The New York Times Magazine on Wednesday, and there are a number of money quotes. 

Here's what he said back in December about his team's chances in Brazil:

We cannot win this World Cup, because we are not at that level yet. For us, we have to play the game of our lives seven times to win the tournament.

Realistically, it's not possible.

Klinsmann was criticized last month when he left Landon Donovan, the most accomplished U.S. soccer player in the country's history, off his squad for Brazil. And he mentioned Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant when discussing his rationale for the decision, and the fact teams cater to their stars, and only their stars, in North America, something he can't quite wrap his head around.

This always happens in America. Kobe Bryant, for example - why does he get a two-year contract extension for $50 million? Because of what he is going to do in the next two years for the Lakers? Of course not. He gets it because of what he has done before. It makes no sense. Why do you pay for what has already happened?

Donovan was left off the team for a number of reasons, including a decision to take a few months off from soccer in early 2013. The Times' Sam Borden writes:

According to those close to Klinsmann, getting rid of Donovan was a result of an accumulation of things. Klinsmann felt Donovan’s play had slipped and was put off by what he saw as Donovan’s inconsistent motivation. The sabbatical was part of it, and Klinsmann’s feelings were crystallized when Donovan told ESPN during training camp that at his age, "I can’t train 12 straight days in a row and have 12 great days in a row."

Donovan showed he could still play upon his return to Major League Soccer, but Klinsmann saw a player who was dominating a weak league:

This is where MLS hurts [Donovan]. He was playing at 70 percent, 80 percent, and he was still dominant. That doesn't help anyone. I watched the games. What was I supposed to say? That he was good? He was not good. Not then. No way.

Klinsmann's in it for the long haul. He's making tough decisions for today, and for the future. He's thinking about 2018, clearly, and a younger player can gain valuable experience in Brazil, something he can't do if Donovan, 32, is on the team. 

Here's Borden again:

Growing is what drives Klinsmann. He wants to grow the United States’ expectations, its quality, its roster, its reach. Growth has always been something Klinsmann has focused on, but he has never found a more captive audience than soccer fans in America.

Klinsmann plays a big part in recruiting for the team, too. He "approaches the task like a college-football coach," Borden writes. He played a significant role in Julian Green committing to the American side, for example.

Klinsmann is setting the tone for American soccer, today and in the future. And you have to appreciate his honesty.