UEFA Europa League
Stefan Klos: "I'm hoping for really exciting games"
There is the ''Hero of Berlin.'' That’s Norbert Dickel. And there’s the ''Hero of Auxerre''. That’s Stefan Klos. Although he never won a senior cap at international level, the Dortmund native was one of the best goalkeepers of his time. Not to mention one of the most popular and successful. Club World Cup winner, Champions League winner, two-time Bundesliga winner at BVB. And Klos is the loyal type. He only played for two clubs in his career. The other is Rangers FC, with whom he won four leagues and four cups. Now his two former clubs are set to face off against one another. That’s definitely something we want to talk about with him.
On the evening of 24 February, Ibrox Stadium will be the venue as BVB and Rangers battle it out to confirm who will be making it through to the last 16 of the Europa League. When the Black & Yellow delegation go into the main entrance, walk past reception and go up the stairs leading to the stadium’s guest of honour area, the name of a certain Dortmund native on the wall may catch their eye. There, on the dark-wood panels on which members of the club’s Hall of Fame are listed, is the name of Stefan Klos, who captained the 55-time Scottish champions at the turn of the millennium.
The now 50-year-old Stefan Klos will be watching the tie between his two former clubs on television from his adopted home in Switzerland. In total, he made 637 competitive appearances for Borussia Dortmund and Rangers. Only a select number of German footballers have hit such heights. Eight years at BVB, nine at Rangers. The fact that he played more games for the Black & Yellows (339) than for the Gers (298) is down to the fact that he only missed one game during his time in Dortmund, but then struggled with a string of injuries towards the end of his career. "I hardly played in the last two years: torn knee ligaments, torn cruciate ligaments, torn all ligaments in my shoulder, broken fingers..."
Let’s start with what’s possibly the most difficult question: who will you be supporting?
I’m hoping for some really exciting games. I’m happy with the best team going through.
Who are the favourites?
I’d say that, if both sides are at full strength, then BVB are the favourites. I think Borussia have better quality players throughout the team.
How do you rate Rangers?
After having to start again in the fourth tier ten years ago, Rangers celebrated their first league title win since 2011 last year. There’s a great sense of joy around the club. That said, they’re still in something of a state of flux. Full-back Nathan Patterson moved to Everton at the start of January, while title-winning coach Steven Gerrard left for Aston Villa in November. But it won’t be the big names that decide this one; it’ll come down to which team wants it more.
What impact will the fans have if both games can be played in full stadiums?
Then both teams would have a big home advantage. A European match is always a special occasion in Dortmund. The fact the second leg is in Glasgow adds another element to it, as the Rangers fans can have a big impact on games when there’s a lot on the line. European fixtures are a huge highlight for them. Playing in front of a sold-out Ibrox crowd is really special with all the noise they generate. There’s a reason why they moved forward the winter break in Scotland.
A crowd of 49,252 fans watched Rangers defeat Dundee United 1-0 on 18 December. On Boxing Day, just 500 would have been allowed to attend. The league therefore decided to forego the traditional fixtures over the festive period and set the winter break until 18 January, when the restrictions on open-air events introduced by first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government were set to be lifted. All indications suggest that Rangers will be cheered on by 50,000 fans for the return leg. There are few places in Europe with a more vocal support. They certainly had a part to play in their team’s 2-0 win over BVB on 25 November 1999…
Your name is missing from the line-ups for this UEFA Cup game. Why?
Wrist fracture. Jörg Albertz. A shot from close range in training. He’s well-known for the power on his left foot.
And the second leg?
I was lying in a hospital bed. I’d had an operation the day before, they put a screw in.
Did you watch the game on TV?
Yes, and I thought to myself: this is the kind of European night in Dortmund in which the game can turn on its head or be decided late on. We were just seconds away from making it into the next round.
Among those who missed in the penalty shoot-out were Claudio Reyna and Giovanni van Bronckhorst, both of whom are connected to one of our current stars in an interesting way: one of them is the father of Giovanni Reyna, the other one is the guy he’s named after. What was it like playing with them back then?
They’re really great guys and fantastic football players! We had a lot of great characters from a diverse range of countries. Claudio still had a house in New York and always used to say he could get from door-to-door in ten hours. It took me longer to get to Dortmund: I had to get a flight to Amsterdam and then drive the rest of the way. Giovanni has been back at Rangers as head coach since November.
When was the last time you watched a game in Dortmund?
Before Covid I made it over a lot, around two or three times a year. I tie it in with visits to my parents or brother, who still live in Dortmund. My eldest son lives in Berlin, so I was able to watch BVB beat Frankfurt in the final of the DFB-Pokal back in 2017. I would have loved to watch the Freiburg game when I came to Dortmund to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday in January. That would have been perfect for me, but it wasn’t to be, as more or less no spectators were allowed to attend.
Looking back on it now, what is your main impression of your career? Unlike Michael Zorc and Lars Ricken, you didn’t play solely for your hometown team. A transfer abroad, which perhaps wasn’t your preferred option, meant you were able to gain a wealth of new experiences.
I don't have any regrets. We had a wonderful time in Scotland, even if it wasn't so easy to begin with. We already had two kids, who only knew German. Then we had two more kids in Glasgow. In the latter part of my time there, I had a lot of injury struggles, which was something I never experienced in Dortmund. Plus I faced real competition, as I always had an international goalkeeper as my number two: a Frenchman, a Finn, a Norwegian, a Scot. Nothing was given to me. It was a really good experience, both at the club as well as the city and country. We really enjoyed life in Scotland.
Stefan Klos’s move to Rangers in 1998 was preceded by a contractual squabble which was unbefitting of a player of his calibre. In 1994, Klos had extended his contract by four years until 30 June 1998. During that time, many BVB contracts were extended, but not that of Stefan Klos. In his words: "If I had been made a contract offer, I most probably would have stayed. But no offer came. And it's not as if an agent could have misunderstood anything or applied unnecessary pressure on the club. I didn't have an agent. I did everything myself with Mr Meier. But I also said to myself: 'If you've been at the club for so long and nothing comes, then you have to leave.' I couldn't go and ask if there was a possibility to stay." This is Stefan Klos’s side of the story. We didn’t talk to Michael Meier. The two have since talked it out. This all happened at a time when the Jean-Marc Bosman case put transfer compensation on a new level, and clubs in turn sought to protect their rights with Paragraph 11.
Paragraph 11 in the DFB standard employment contract reads: "... If these terms are amended after the conclusion of this contract to the effect that the previous transfer compensation provision (§ 29 et seq. LSt) is partially or wholly omitted, the player undertakes to continue the contract under the previous conditions for one year if the club so wishes."
Klos stayed beyond 30 June 1998 - but only until the winter break. On 18 December 1998, he made his 254th and final Bundesliga appearance for BVB in a 3-0 win over VfB Stuttgart. Since 6 September 1991 - the day he replaced Teddy de Beer as the club’s number one - he had only missed a single game: the last fixture of the 1995/96 season due to a broken thumb. This meant he was unable to participate at EURO 96 and thus missed out on a European Championship winners’ medal.
Was a senior international cap the only thing you missed out on in your excellent career?
During your career, you should never be satisfied with anything and always look to chase new goals. I played for all the youth national teams from U15 to U21 level, including the Olympic team. And I was also named in the senior squad a couple of times because other goalkeepers were injured, but I never got a chance to play. When I moved to Scotland, I didn't exactly increase my chances. But I don't regret a thing.
On another note: what was your greatest moment among all the success?
Woah… let’s start with the biggest trophy, which was the Champions League. The first title win with Borussia Dortmund in 1995 was a really fantastic moment, there was also a great sense of relief at having finally achieved it mixed in there too. Three years earlier we fell just short of the finish line, and I remember Michael Zorc telling me: ''I don’t know if I’ll ever get so close again.''
And the best game of your career? Auxerre in 1993?
Er… It was just one penalty, one out of six, that I managed to save. That’s not all that good a success rate. If we’d missed two of ours then we wouldn’t even be talking about this penalty shoot-out. It was by no means the best game of my career; after all, we lost 2-0 after 120 minutes of play. However, it was the game that gave me and my career a boost, because everyone at the club then saw: this is someone you can count on in pressure situations. I was still a youngster, just 21, and only in my second season as a professional. The UEFA Cup had a different level of prestige back then compared to the Europa League, as only league winners qualified for the Champions League. We were in the competition as league runners-up, like many other top clubs from across Europe, including Juventus, who we faced in the final.
Does the goalkeeper have the more enviable job in a penalty shoot-out?
There is massive pressure on the penalty takers in important games. As a player, you have to tune out those thoughts: if I miss now, everyone will associate me with our defeat. Still today everyone knows that Lothar Matthäus missed his last penalty for Borussia Mönchengladbach in a cup final almost 40 years ago against his new club Bayern Munich. And everyone remembers Uli Hoeness in the 1976 EURO final. Matthias Sammer was the best footballer I ever played with, but he probably would have been the last person to put himself forward as a penalty taker.
Stefan Klos made the save. That one shot from Stéphane Mahé. One of many, many saves he made during his triumphant time at BVB. He got the job done and never seemed flustered. Attack wins games, defence wins championships, as they say. Stefan Klos was the spine of the defence. After narrowly missing out on the Bundesliga title in 1992, he lifted the trophy in 1995 and 1996 and then, in 1997, he helped BVB win the biggest titles in football: the Champions League and the Club World Cup. It doesn’t get any better than that in club football.
We haven't heard much from you since you hung up your boots. Did you make a conscious decision to step away from football and the public eye?
I was playing football every Saturday for 18 years and often during the week too. It's not just the day you play a game either. You make the trip, you go back home. The hotels all look the same. It makes almost no difference whether you stay in Milan, Madrid or Lisbon. After so much time, you're not as into it as you were ten years prior. I couldn't have gone straight into a coaching job, I needed a bit of distance from it all.
Had the time also come to give something back to the family?
As a footballer, you’re always away from home. My wife took care of everything, four children plus the dogs, and made sure there was a nice atmosphere at home. I then really enjoyed spending more time with the family and seeing the children grow up. If I had stayed in football, it would have involved moving house, probably several times. Coaches never stay anywhere long. I didn't want to move somewhere purely because of a job, somewhere I would never have gone to otherwise. We then decided to move to Switzerland. The children were better at English - or rather Scottish - than German, even though we spoke German at home. We found an international school near Lucerne - which I knew from our training camps - where the lessons were partly in German, partly in English. We've been there almost 14 years now. The oldest children have already moved out. The youngest is doing her school-leaving exams. They are all growing up.
And what are you doing?
(laughs) I’m giving you an interview.
Author: Boris Rupert
Photos: imago images