Bayern Munich hires Niko Kovac from Frankfurt as coach
ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 13, 2018 10:17 PM
FILE - In this April 4, 2017 file photo Frankfurt's head coach Niko Kovac smiles prior the German Bundesliga soccer match between 1. FC Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt in Cologne, Germany. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, file)
MUNICH (AP) — Niko Kovac is returning to Bayern Munich as coach next season after impressing at Eintracht Frankfurt.
The 46-year-old Kovac, who played for Bayern from 2001-03, agreed to a three-year contract starting in July, the Bundesliga champions said Friday.
"We're very happy that we could win Niko Kovac as a new coach for Bayern," sports director Hasan Salihamidzic said. "Niko was a player at Bayern, he knows the characters and the structures and the DNA of the club very well. We are convinced that he is the right coach for the future of FC Bayern."
The former defensive midfielder will take over from Jupp Heynckes, who stepped out of retirement to take charge at Bayern last October but has long said he will not continue beyond the end of the season. Bayern's attempts to convince the 72-year-old Heynckes otherwise were unsuccessful.
Kovac will be joined at Bayern by his younger brother Robert as assistant coach. The 44-year-old Robert Kovac also previously played for the club.
Kicker magazine reported that Bayern would pay a fee of 2.2 million euros ($2.7 million) to trigger a release clause in Kovac's existing contract with Frankfurt. Kovac had a deal through June 2019 with his current club.
Despite relative inexperience after a stint in charge of Croatia, Kovac saved Frankfurt from relegation after taking over in March 2016 and led the team to the German Cup final the following season. Champions League qualification is possible this season after another stellar campaign.
Frankfurt also has a German Cup semifinal match against Schalke next week.
Kovac, who was born in West Berlin to parents of Croatian descent, has been praised for fusing together a team of many nationalities, and for its high-pressing attractive style of play. He won over the players through tactical nous, commitment and by convincing them of the value of sacrifice for the team.
"The coach keeps the team together brilliantly. Respect is hugely important in such a collective. Everyone respects the other," Frankfurt forward Kevin-Prince Boateng said earlier this season.
Bayern was initially in talks with former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, but he informed the club that he had agreed to take over another team while it was still trying to convince Heynckes to stay.
Kovac will need to adjust to instructing established stars at Bayern, rather than young players of promise still eager to learn, and he will be expected to maintain the club's high standards.
The Bavarian powerhouse has won a record six straight Bundesliga titles and may yet secure a league, German Cup and Champions League treble in Heynckes' last season.