Klinger, Nir : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Klinger, Nir

Klinger was the heart and soul of every team he ever played for, known as a gritty player who never played dirty. With 83 international appearances (caps) for the Israeli National team, he is one of the most consistent performers in the country's history.

Klinger led Maccabi to their first title since the 95-96 (when he was their defensive midfielder) in his first season as head coach in 2002-03. Nir proceeded to lead Maccabi to the UEFA Champions League in the 2004-05 season.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 25, 1966

Career Highlights:
Klinger came up with the great mid-1980s Maccabi Haifa side along with Ronny Rosenthal and Zahi Armeli. During that decade, he helped his club win the 1984-85 and the 1988-89 Israel League title, while also becoming a regular for the Israel National team. In 1990 (in a move Haifa will always regret), Klinger moved south to rival club Maccabi Tel Aviv, and accordingly, the hegemony moved to the bigger city.

Klinger excelled and helped Maccabi win the 1991-92 league title, and the 1993-94 Israel Cup. He then scored seven goals and was Maccabi's best player in the successful 1994-95 title drive. The following season, he scored 10 goals (as a defensive midfielder) in the 1995-96 "double" year (both the league and Cup titles). Klinger then played for two more years in Maccabi before being appointed assistant coach for his team.

After his playing days ended, Klinger left to become the head coach of Betar Beersheba where he did an remarkable job with the modest team. Klinger was then appointed coach of the biggest team in Israel, Maccabi Tel Aviv at the start of the 2002-03 season. He delivered fast and furious soccer starting youngsters Baruch Dago and Eli Biton while often benching veteran stars Avi Nimni and Tal Banin. A month from the end of the season, Dago was injured and it was left to Nimni to lead the team to the championship. Maccabi won the title on the last day on goal difference as they were tied on points.

Nir's charges opened the 2003-04 season in an inauspicious manner. They were eliminated by MSK Zilina of Slovakia in the first round of the Champions League after much unrest and infighting in their pre-season training camp. On August 13, 2003, Klinger caused a veritable earthquake in Maccabi Tel Aviv as he released the team's two biggest stars Tal Banin and Avi Nimni due to their divisive influence on the team.

Klinger's charges opened the 2003-04 on the wrong foot with their surprise elimination from the Champions League preliminaries. They lost 2-1 on aggregate to Zilina of Slovakia. Maccabi suffered through a pedestrian season under Klinger's tutelage. The coach had dispensed of Tel-Aviv's veterans and found he relied far too heavily on unready youngsters. They came in second though they were never in the hunt for the title. Maccabi was eliminated in the quarterfinal of the State Cup by eventual holders, Beni Sakhnin.

In 2004-05, Maccabi seem to be on the verge of qualifying for the prestigious UEFA Champions League. They beat Finnish side HJK 1-0 on aggregate in the second qualification round. In the third and final qualification round, Maccabi were drawn to play PAOK Salonika. The Israeli team won the away leg 1-0, but thanks to a technical error made by the Greeks, they were awarded a 3-0 victory. Maccabi were drawn to an impossibly tough group of Bayern Munich, Ajax Amsterdam and Juventus in the Champions League. In the first game, held September 16, Maccabi lost 1-0 to Munich at home. Tel Aviv performed commendably against Italian powerhouse Juventus in Torin on September 28 but succumbed to a 37 minute goal and lost 1-0. In an October 19 match, Maccabi were humiliated 3-0 by Ajax in the Amsterdam ArenA and lost their chance at qualification. However, in their next home match on November 3, the Israeli team beat Ajax Amsterdam 2-1 at home for their first goals and points in the competition. Eighteen days later, Maccabi were humiliated in the Munich Olympic stadium. Tel Aviv lost 5-1 and seemed out of place in Champions League level play. Klinger's charges have lost any realistic chance of qualifying for the next phase.

Haifa, Israel

Defensive midfielder

Career Statistics:
70 league goals

83 International caps

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Maccabi Tel Aviv Official site