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Saturday, December 10, 2022

From butcher shop to France team, Klaus’s destiny changes

There could not have been a better moment to return to the club for Jonathan Kloss, who once thought he was unprepared for the roughness of the game.

It’s been a long road, but the 29-year-old Lens finally made it to the top level, getting his first taste of international football with the France national team in the past few days.

Klaus, whose teams travel to Strasbourg – the club that rejected him as a youth player – made his first appearance in the French league on Sunday, with Les Blaises against Ivory Coast last week. He then made his World Cup debut for champions after beating South Africa 5-0 on Tuesday.

Both games served as preparations for the World Cup later this year and Klaus lived up to expectations, scoring points in the battle for highly coveted spots in the team traveling to Qatar. Especially since France coach Didier Deschamps now uses a 3-5-2 system, with room for fullbacks attacking from the flank, a type of player that was embodied by Klaus.

It is exactly Klaus’s attacking profile that has attracted attention in the French league this season.

His contribution to Lens’ offensive play has been spectacular with four goals and nine assists under coach Frank Haise, who is using him as a right winger. Only Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourgoud have delivered more decisive passes this season in the league.

As with France, the Strasbourg Academy product came a few minutes into the closing stages of the friendly against Ivory Coast. He then delivered a full-fledged performance against South Africa, with a strong defensive play that featured sharp attacks down the flank and precise crosses.

Klaus will return to Strasbourg with confidence after his first international experience. Born in the Alsatian city, Klaus was not placed in the youth teams after 10 years by the academy of his hometown club.

“It destroyed me at the time when I was told I would not be placed, but it allowed me to get back up after falling down,” Klaus told the French league website. “I was disappointed, but I was able to realize that if I want to continue playing football, I have to enjoy first.”

Klaus then took on a number of odd jobs, including a night post office and a butcher shop bouncing back with amateur teams. He spent several seasons in the German and French lower leagues before signing a first professional contract with second division club Caville-Rouen for the 2017–18 season.

He moved to second division German club Arminia Bielefeld before Lens offered him a contract in June 2020.

In only his second season in the French aristocracy, Klaus has been a constant threat to the opposing defenders, with a total of 29 shots and 58 passes, leading to goals in 28 appearances.

“He’s had a different journey,” Haise told the website Lensois.com after Klaus received his international call. “He went through very difficult years, during which he was required to maintain a great deal of resilience, endurance and confidence … He is a great example to many players.”

With nine matches left to play in the league, eighth-place Lens can still hope for a European spot next season and will rely on Klaus to deliver again. Strasbourg are fifth and are bidding for a place in the Champions League.

Paris Saint-Germain, which has a 12-point lead over Marseille, host Lorient on Sunday. Marseille is at Saint-Etienne.

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