Toni Kroos to Thomas Muller. Muller sets up the ball for Miroslav Klose with a short back pass on the right half of the goal inside the box. Klose takes a shot. Julio Cesar makes a brilliant save. But the ball rebounds to Klose who makes no mistake this time and nets the ball on the bottom right corner, right past the diving Cesar’s outstretched left hand. Germany go 2-0 up in the 23rd minute against Brazil at Belo Horizonte in the first semi-final of the 2014 World Cup Football. Klose celebrates with a knee slide instead of his trademark forward somersault. Germany win the game 7-1, a humiliation Brazilian football will never forget, and go ahead to win the World Cup for the fourth time. But that second goal in the semi-final was more significant than the result showed.
It was Klose’s 16th goal in four world cups. It was his fourth appearance in a world cup semi-final, both records.
The prolific goal-scorer and one of the finest centre-forwards of the game, whose accuracy and power behind headers are as legendary as his forward somersaults in the air, hung up his boots on Tuesday and decided to join the coaching staff of the German national team.
Since his Bundesliga debut in 2000 with Kaiserslautern, Klose went on to play for Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Lazio. He scored 121 goals in 307 matches in his 11-year Bundesliga career. At the Italian club which he joined in 2011, Klose scored 68 goals in 173 Serie A games. Klose left Lazio last summer and was without a contract since. Klose is also Germany’s top scorer with 71 international goals in 137 matches since his international debut in 2001. Many of the goals, including all of the 16 in world cup matches, came from the distance of less than 12 yards which shows Klose is a perfect poacher; when he is in that close range, he scores more often than not.
But while his ball-poaching skills may not be teachable, his wonderful sportsmanship sure is. Klose won German Football Association (DFB) awards for fair play twice in his career. In a 2012 Serie A game, he was given a goal against Napoli when he told the referee that it was instead a handball (watch here). The score was reversed. Back in 2005, while playing for Bremen against Arminia Bielefeld, Klose was awarded a penalty after the goalkeeper made a tackle inside the box. Klose famously went to the referee and told him that the keeper had touched the ball first. The penalty was reversed.
“For me, it was something you should always do. I would do it again—always,” he said at the time, according to AFP.
Klose, 38, was born in Poland to professional athletes—Josef, a footballer, and Barbara, a handball player. He arrived in Germany when he was 8. He still speaks Polish at home with wife Sylwia and twin sons Luan and Noah. Klose and Lukas Podolski are famous to have conversations in Polish during international matches. He could have even become a Polish international had the coach of that country hurried a bit.
Klose has two Bundesliga titles, two German Cups, one Coppa Italia trophy, one World Cup winner’s medal and one World Cup Golden Boot under his belt and, if his observations off the pitch are as good as his observations on the pitch, there could be another star coach in the making.
“I have achieved my biggest successes with the national team,” AFP quoted Klose as saying on the official DFB website. “It was a wonderful and unforgettable time. That’s why I am delighted to return to the DFB. Over the past few months the decision to stay on the pitch, but take on another perspective, that of a coach, grew in me.”