While many critics have begun speculating whether Bayern Munich’s head coach Niko Kovac might suffer the same fate as Carlo Ancelotti last season, Bayern’s leadership has been strikingly silent. Only club president Uli Hoeness somewhat ominously remarked that Kovac has to “stick his neck out” for his squad selection — a remark he later said was not intended as criticism.
The absence of support from the front office persisted until earlier today at Bayern’s annual Oktoberfest visit, when Hoeness told Süddeutsche Zeitung that he stands behind Kovac “like a rock,” and he pledged that he would support Kovac “no matter what happens in the next few weeks.”
Hoeness emphatically added in comments that will appear in Kicker’s Monday print edition,
I will defend Niko Kovac to the bitter end. We are completely calm.
“Bis aufs Blut,” he said, literally “until there is blood.” Results be damned, Niko Kovac has the support of the most powerful person at Bayern Munich.
Bayern’s sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic also spoke indirectly in support of Kovac at Oktoberfest, suggesting that it was the responsibility of everyone on the team to step up their game:
We have to find our way out again — we’ll be able to do that only if we all come together and everyone gets their act together.
Brazzo smiled for the camera and put his arm around a somber Kovac for the Oktoberfest photoshoot. Kovac later sat with chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge while a traditional Bavarian gingerbread heart appeared behind them reading I mog di, Bavarian dialect for “I like you.” Kovac, who normally does not drink alcohol, had perhaps indulged in a few sips of Paulaner.
- Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic puts on a smile for the camera and draps his arm around the shoulders of a somber Niko Kovac at Oktoberfest, October 7, 2018. Photo by Pool / Bongarts / Getty Images
- Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Niko Kovac clink Maßkrüge at Oktoberfest as a giant gingerbread heart reads “I mog di” behind them, October 7, 2018. Photo by Pool / Bongarts / Getty Images
Sammer, Hamann defend Kovac
Several other prominent voices have also spoken in support of Kovac. Bayern’s former sporting director, Matthias Sammer, declared that he found the discussion about Kovac’s future “perverse” (Kicker). Sammer could not believe “the speed with which topics are broached, even though not much has happened yet. He also had a few ups and downs in Frankfurt,” Sammer added.
Sammer felt that the players seemed “somewhat uninspired in possession” and that “ one, two or three percent were lacking when they conceded, where you have to conclude: OK, they’re a bit off from the top level where you normally see Bayern.” His verdict:
They now must reestablish their total resolve with consistent, hard work.
Former Bayern star-turned-commentator Dietmar Hamann was even more forthright in his defense of Kovac, placing the blame for Bayern’s woes squarely on the club’s transfer policy of the past few years (TZ):
The team is too old. The Bayern players are almost 30 years old on average. When you’re always a step too slow, you become unsure. You always make the wrong decision. Ajax made Bayern look like a team of geriatrics.
Hamann argues that the loss of Kingsley Coman has been a particularly bitter blow for Kovac:
Five years ago, Bayern had the best wingers. They don’t have them anymore. That’s why Kingsley Coman is such a horrible loss. That’s their most important offensive player currently.
Hamann further elaborated on Kovac’s dilemma with rotation:
You have to rotate, but you also can’t rotate too much. [The front office] neglected to do a lot of things in the past two or three years. There are almost only very young or very old players. I think it’s wrong to blame the coach for that now. I hope they stick with Kovac.
Niko Kovac is being taken apart, put against the wall, put under fire for something that he can’t help at all. Kovac earned this chance [to coach Bayern].
Hamann also speculated that some members of the team may be selfishly looking after their own interests rather than those of the team:
This team doesn’t fit together in terms of character. Some players are putting their own interest over that of the team. I can imagine that some players have gone to see the bosses. These players always find excuses and alibis. These are very, very bad times.
And even Uli Hoeness’s statement fell short of Hamann’s expectations. Alluding to Bayern’s humiliating 3-0 loss to Mönchengladbach, he said:
I would have expected that one of the people in charge would say, “We will not accept a team performance like this today.” That would have been worth more than Hoeness’s statement that “I stand behind the coach like a rock.”