Champion, cup winner – and gone? This strange scenario no longer seems out of the question for niko kovac ahead of two FC bayern finals.
The 47-year-old has no job guarantee from munich bosses ahead of saturday’s cup final against eintracht frankfurt and the DFB cup seven days later in berlin against RB leipzig, despite a contract that runs until 2021. Encouragement came from president uli hoeneb. CEO karl-heinz rummenigge and sports director hasan salihamidzic leave room for speculation in their statements.
Kovac has been trying for weeks to fade out "side issues" and focus on his first championship as coach. "I must bring my performance. When I bring them in, I don’t think there’s any need for discussion," the croatian said about the debates surrounding his person.
When kovac joined the german soccer record champions a year ago as the successor to triple winner jupp heynckes, he knew the club’s DNA very well as a former player. "As a trainer you are obliged to succeed here. Anything less than success is failure," is how kovac recently described the requirements at the world club. The past as a bayern professional between 2001 and 2003 certainly helps, kovac admitted. "But you never stop learning. These ten months have been very instructive."
Eintracht frankfurt and the croatian national team were kovac’s only stints as a coach at a higher level before his stint in munich. Before that he was junior and co-trainer. The job in munich is a completely different ballgame.
Bosses repeatedly praised how kovac had mastered the autumn crisis. However, not without pointing out that they gave the trainer decisive advice on the way. Kovac moved away from the big rotation in a dicey situation for him as well, relied more on defense, the sporting turnaround gave him security in office.
The croatian was highly praised for his defensive concept after the 0-0 draw with liverpool in the first leg of the champions league round of 16. The despondent performance in the 1:3 ruckspiel against jurgen klopp’s team, which was defeated on 1. June may play the final against tottenham hotspur, on the other hand, kovac is still being held against him by his bosses today. The out has cast doubt on the croatian’s ability to lift bayern back to the highest level internationally in the near future.
"What we simply didn’t like was the game against liverpool," said salihamidzic only at the weekend. "We just didn’t do it well. That may have been despondent. The way we played against dortmund, we also had to perform against liverpool."The 5:0 against the borussia at the beginning of april is the mabstab. This is how the bosses want to see their star ensemble play and win. Permanent. Salihamidzic evaded a clear commitment to kovac before the season finale. Although he assured the coach of his support. But when asked several times how things would go at the end of the season, the sports director said: "we’ll see."
Is the former defensive midfielder kovac the right man to rebuild a top international team?? Do rummenigge and hoeneb really want to entrust this coach with the next phase of change, in which the club is currently investing well over 100 million euros?? After highly decorated world coaches such as pep guardiola, carlo ancelotti and jupp heynckes, the munich team has boldly opted for a novice at the highest level of fubball this season.
Kovac has certainly not had an easy first year. German internationals came back from the world cup disappointed, last year with deserving champions league winners like franck ribery (36) and arjen robben (35) required fingertip feeling from kovac. "The trainer comes into a difficult situation. We have initiated our transition," salihamidzic remarked.
Kovac values not only fubball artistry. "In addition to natural talent, you have to display the talent for work," he says. He spoke more and more often of "passion" in the final spurt of the season. Internally and externally, however, a conclusive, offensive game concept is missing.
Kovac knows he has to deliver. First against eintracht, then against leipzig. He wants the next "notch in the colt", as he had called the cup success with eintracht a year ago. Titles have always been the best job guarantee for coaches at FC bayern.
The fact that kovac, like BVB coach lucien favre, who has to take on monchengladbach with dortmund, was able to celebrate his first trophy as a coach against an ex-club, of all things, gives the last matchday a special touch. "The second is the first loser, although even that is an achievement," kovac remarked on the pressure to succeed in professional sport. "The story with olympia and ‘being there is everything’ is over. Everyone wants to be a winner."
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