The race to become the new boss of Norwich City tonight took a thouroughly intriguing twist when, from the other side of the world, three-time World Cup finalist Pierre Littbarski threw his hat firmly into the ring.
Speaking exclusively to myfootballwriter.com from his base in Japan, the 47-year-old German footballing legend made his interest very plain.
Would he be like to become the new manager of Norwich City? “Yes,” he said, with a clear and precise enthusiasm.
After a week in which the names of all the usual suspects have been doing the rounds, Littbarski's entry into the race is the one that is likely to raise an eyebrow or two.
Not least for the fact that he would only come as a pair – by his side would be his current first team coach at Avispa Fukuoka, Ian Crook.
“If I were to come, I would come with Chippy (Crook),” said Littbarski. “He knows the game there a lot better than I do and he is more than a right-hand man to me.
“We had a lot of fun together at Sydney – it was the first time in history that a German and an Englishman work well together! So, no, I would not come alone.”
The two had considerable success at Sydney United, winning the inaugural Australian A-League title in the company of Dwight Yorke and 30,000-plus home fans before then competing in the 2005 FIFA World Club Championships in Japan as Oceania's representative in a six-way, global shoot-out for FIFA's 'top club' tag.
Beaten 1-0 by the champions of North and Latin America Deportivo Saprissa in the quarter-finals, Sydney went on to claim fifth spot by beating the reigning club champions of Africa, Egypt's Al Ahly.
Had they beaten Saprissa, a date in the last four with Liverpool would have awaited. As it was the Reds, then Champions of Europe, marched into the final only to lose to Sao Paulo of Brazil 1-0.
How much that qualifies Littbarski to manage the Canaries away at Turf Moor on a dank Tuesday night is anyone's guess – or rather the board's guess as they ponder their many and varied options this weekend.
Littbarski is certainly different. He comes, to borrow an American phrase, way out of the left field.
For rummage through the rest of the cvs sat on the board's table today and few others will boast three World Cup final appearances – in 1982, 1986 and, of course, winning it in 1990 as the Huckerby-esque attacking midfielder racked up 73 full international appearances scoring 18 goals in the process.
Nor, I doubt, will you find someone fluent in five languages after a year playing for Racing Club de Paris in the mid-1980s added to his collection.
Having first cut his managerial teeth with Bayer 04 Leverkusen and then MSV Duisburg in the Bundesliga, Littbarski returned to where he had finished his illustrious playing career in Japan by managing Yokohama FC.
From there to Sydney only for a change of ownership at the glamour club of Australian football to lead to Littbarski quitting and Terry Butcher arriving at the helm – what then followed was always a nasty accident waiting to happen as Ipswich Town legend found Canary legend Crook as his coach.
The latter swiftly baled out to join Littbarski back in Japan trying to revive the ailing fortunes of Fukouka in the second tier of Japanese football. Back in Sydney and Hollywood actor and United part-owner Anthony LaPagli swiftly took the axe to Lowestoft's finest.
Interestingly having stabilised the ship there – Fukuoka sit seventh in the Japanese Second Division – both Littbarski and Crook are out of contract in six weeks time when the J-League season finishes in December.
If any call were to come, says Littbarski, they would not be hanging around. “It is close to the end of the season here and if the opportunity comes up, we wouldn't let it go,” he said, amid reports of a link to the Chinese national job.
There money would be no option – it may yet prove to be a big, stumbling block in Norfolk. Maybe not, if the return of a fully-fledged Canary hero in Crook and a genuine World Cup star in Littbarski pushed enough of the Turners' buttons.
City also have one big ace up their sleeve that might temper Littbarski's wage demands – geography. The Canaries sit on the very doorstep of the Premiership – albeit back down the garden path and only just inside the gate.
“I love the Premier League in England,” said Littbarski. “Since I've been in Australia I have really followed it.
“For me, it is true soccer. There's no cheating. And if I got an opportunity to manage in the Premier League then that would be fantastic.”
What better place to prove his worth than with a club stuck firmly in the bottom three of the Championship? As much as Crook's love affair with Norfolk might help spur Littbarski's ambitions, it is not too hard to suspect that there is a stepping stone logic at work here – on, say, to a Spurs where his big pal Jurgen Klinsmann made such an impact. And to where he may yet return as manager.
“We were never at the same club,I only had the honour of playing with him for the international team,” said Littbarski, who – like Los Angeles-based Klinsmann – is reputed to be one of the least likely Germans you are ever likely to meet.
Klinsmann certainly took little time to win over the White Hart Lane faithful.
“I am very close friends with him and have visited him in America many times,” said Littbarski. “And I know that he had a great time at Spurs. It was very difficult to start with for him with all the diving thing, but I think he quickly did something to make them see him differently.”
And while Littbarski might have been found watching Aston Villa-Chelsea live on Japanese TV the other week, his eyes have clearly strayed to the foot of the Championship where a potential opportunity to make his managerial mark in Europe might, just, await.
Whether he caught Norwich-QPR is another matter, but he already knows a bit of what would lie in store should his cv prompt a response from the Canary board.
“Am I worried about their league position? No, no worries. It is still very early in the season. And I know that they haven't scored a goal for a long time, but I think we could do something there.”
Whether everyone sat round the Carrow Road boardroom table does is another matter. Whatever else Pierre Littbarski brings to the table, he could never be described as the compromise candidate.
He's the one that nails that 'lack of ambition' charge firmly on the head. Boy, would he cause a stir among the usual suspects of the Championship.
Or do Delia, Michael, Andrew, Sharon and Co trust the kind of devils they know as the Tony Pulis', Martin Allens and Micky Adams' of this world form an orderly queue at the boardroom door? That right now they need someone who knows the dark alleys of the Championship inside out; someone who could find their way to Turf Moor in the dark.
So maybe as the bookies shut up shot tonight and suspend all betting on the next Norwich boss, a die is now being cast. Perhaps Littbarski has already missed the boat.
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