Jurgen Klinsmann, beleaguered head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, is set to return to Seoul this week after a recent European trip following a last-minute schedule change, officials said Wednesday.
The Korea Football Association (KFA) announced Klinsmann will return to South Korea with the rest of the home-based members of the national team Thursday afternoon. The Taegeuk Warriors played two friendly matches in Europe this month, with a goalless draw against Wales last Thursday in Cardiff followed by a 1-0 squeaker over Saudi Arabia on Tuesday in Newcastle, England. It was Klinsmann's first win as South Korea's bench boss.
Klinsmann had initially planned to stay put in Europe to check on South Korean internationals plying their trade there before returning to South Korea. His initial itinerary included a trip to Germany to watch Bayern Munich's South Korean defender Kim Min-jae at the weekend.
However, following a meeting with his backroom staff Wednesday, Klinsmann decided to return to South Korea immediately, according to the KFA. Klinsmann will check on players in the domestic K League before putting together the next edition of the national team for the October international match window, the KFA added. South Korea will host Tunisia on Oct. 13 and Vietnam on Oct. 17.
The KFA said Klinsmann will speak with the media Thursday after landing at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.
Though the KFA didn't give reasons for the about-face, Klinsmann likely made the switch with growing criticism over his work habits in mind.
The German-born, U.S.-based coach has been heavily criticized by South Korean fans for spending more time in his Los Angeles home than in South Korea, despite his earlier pledge to live in his new host country and learn about the new culture here as quickly as possible. While overseas, Klinsmann has moonlighted as a European football analyst for ESPN and attended the draw for the UEFA Champions League in Monaco.
Klinsmann has claimed that he can still work effectively for the South Korean national team without being in the country and he has capable assistants in his staff who can handle K League scouting.
A five-match winless skid, with three draws and two losses, to begin his South Korea tenure only gave Klinsmann's critics more ammunition, as they accused the coach of not trying to unearth hidden gems in the K League and of wasting his time watching already-established players in Europe.