Bayern Munich have announced that Niko Kovac will become their new manager at the end of the season.
The 46-year-old has agreed a contract until 2021, and he will be joined by his brother Robert Kovac who will continue as his assistant at the Allianz Arena.
The search is over
Bayern had been on the hunt for a new permanent manager since parting company with Ancelotti in the aftermath of the 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, Heynckes, who retired after guiding the club to the treble in 2013, was talked back to the club by Uli Hoeneß and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
The 72-year-old’s return has been an emphatic success, with the team winning 28 of his 32 seasons in charge. He became the oldest manager to lead a team to the Bundesliga title with the 4-1 victory over FC Augsburg last weekend, whilst they are also in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League and DFB-Pokal.
Despite that, he has always insisted he would not stay beyond the end of the season, despite efforts from the club’s hierarchy to convince him otherwise. Names such as Thomas Tuchel and Julian Nagelsmann had been heavily linked with the job, but with doubts over both, and Tuchel looking set to join PSG, they have instead turned to the Croatian.
A positive impression with Croatia and Frankfurt
Kovac is no stranger to the record Bundesliga champions, having played for them from two seasons between 2001 and 2003. In that time he won three trophies, the Intercontinental Cup in 2001 plus the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in 2003, before moving on to Hertha BSC and eventually Red Bull Salzburg, where he retired in 2009.
He began his coaching career in the youth set up at Salzburg, before becoming assistant to first team coach Ricardo Moniz. He became manager of the Croatia under-21 side in early 2013, before taking over the senior team later that year, eventually managing them at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, leaving the role in September 2015.
In 2016 he took over at Frankfurt and was tasked with keeping them in the Bundesliga, which he achieved following a victory in the relegation play-off against 1. FC Nürnberg. Since then the club has gone from strength to strength, finishing 11th last season – reaching a high of in late January – and reaching the DFB-Pokal final.
This season has been a more consistent one, and they remain in the hunt for a Champions League place, whilst they have also reached the semi-finals of the Pokal once again. Along with sporting director Fredi Bobic he has overseen a transformation in the standards of the club, whilst helping to bring through youngsters like Marius Wolf and Luka Jovic and successfully getting the most out of marquee signing Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Bayern confident they have the right man, but Bobic not amused
Kovac’s appointment was confirmed on Friday lunchtime, after reports of an agreement emerged from Bild on Thursday night. In a brief statement on the club’s website, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said that Kovac “knows the people in charge and the club’s structures and DNA,” and that “we’re convinced he’s the right coach for the future” of Bayern Munich.
Heynckes also publicly gave his blessing to his replacement, saying he had “left his mark” on the Croatia team in 2014. He said that he had “worked with a lot of different personalities and nationalities at Frankfurt,” before claiming he was “predestined” to be Bayern coach. “I believe Bayern have made a good choice,” he finished.
Meanwhile at Frankfurt’s press conference ahead of their game against Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, Kovac, who has activated a release clause in his current contract, confirmed that everything had been done quickly, with Bayern only making contact with him on Thursday. He insisted though that “everybody (at Frankfurt) is committed to completing what we have built up and not losing sight of our goals” up to the end of the season.
Bobic though was not happy with the way Bayern had handled their approach, and the way it came out in the media. He described the leak as “very annoying, unprofessional and disrespectful” whilst he called Bayern “extremely questionable and disrespectful” for not making contact with him before approaching Kovac.
Kovac has six games left in charge at the Commerzbank Arena, potentially seven if they reach the DFB-Pokal final. One of the league games is against his future employers, whilst he could yet meet them again in Berlin at the end of the season.
Quotes via Bayern Munich, ESPN and Kicker.