If they have not done so already, most footballers are certainly contemplating retiring come their mid-30s. Miroslav Klose celebrates his 34th birthday on Saturday, the day of Germany's Group B opener with Portugal, but he has no intention of hanging up his boots just yet.
The S.S. Lazio forward earned his first international cap in 2001, only five years after a unified Germany became European champions, adding to West Germany's two previous triumphs. Some 11 years later, Klose is likely to lead the line for his nation in Lviv as they begin their bid for a fourth continental crown, but the veteran striker is not planning on the tournament being his swansong at international level.
"I will have to take it from year to year, but of course it's still a goal for me. I'll try schlepping my carcass along as long as possible," said Klose when asked about the possibility of playing at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil where he will start one shy of Ronaldo's record of 15 goals in final tournaments. "I am doing a lot to stay fit. Sometimes my back starts hurting and I notice when I don't work out.
It is my opinion that you have to get that last ten to 20 per cent out of yourself. If that's not the case, you are never going to be a good player. And that has always been my mentality and it has served me well."
Having left FC Bayern München to move to Italy last summer, Klose certainly made a sprightly start to life in Rome, scoring 12 times in 27 league games. A thigh muscle injury followed by an ankle problem cut short his maiden Serie A campaign, but Germany's pre-tournament preparations in Sardinia, southern France and now Gdansk mean Klose is ready to continue his quest to beat Gerd Müller's record of 68 goals for the Nationalmannschaft.
With 63 international strikes to his name already, Klose knows he could eclipse Der Bomber during the tournament with coach Joachim Löw likely to favour the Polish-born Klose as his first-choice forward in Germany's 4-2-3-1 set-up. Though the presence of Bayern's Mario Gomez and the Borussia Dortmund-bound Marco Reus, scorers of 26 and 18 Bundesliga goals respectively last season, makes competition for places fierce, Klose is ready to face the challenge.
"Competition keeps you sharp. Any one of us could replace another. Everyone knows what a great striker Mario is and I definitely won't underestimate Marco Reus, our third striker," said Klose, who despite his advancing years does not envy the youth of his team-mates. "What could I use from a young Klose today? I was a dummy back then. I have matured and improved my game, so really, I could use nothing."
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