Niko Kovac’s tenure at Bayern Munich may be hastening to the end even sooner than anticipated. Uli Hoeness declared that Kovac would still be coach for Bayern’s game against SL Benfica tomorrow, and Kovac himself told the press today that he does not believe it will be his final game, but behind closed doors even Kovac may already have raised the prospect expect his imminent dismissal.
A new report by Bild (paywall) alleges that Kovac gave an explosive locker room address after Bayern’s embarrassing 3-3 draw to Fortuna Düsseldorf. Bild naturally names no source, but the details of their account suggest it is one or more players hostile to Kovac.
Bild claims that Kovac angrily rebuked the players after the game, asserting that it was not he, but rather they who were to blame for Bayern’s poor results. “Not he, but the stars stood on the pitch,” as Bild paraphrases the account of his speech. Kovac also allegedly criticized a German mentality of complacency (deutsche Gemütlich-Mentalität), apparently in contrast to his own experience of working hard and fighting for everything (as a Croatian).
Kovac also allegedly complained that the locker room was full of know-it-alls. Rumors have indeed repeatedly suggested that the players ignore Kovac’s instructions on the pitch, and even team captain Manuel Neuer asserted after the Düsseldorf team that they would have won the game by a wide margin had they implemented Kovac’s match plan.
According to Bild — and ultimately according to Bild’s anonymous source in the locker room — the players “showed no understanding for the assignation of blame.” Kovac concluded by suggesting that “he might soon be gone, but would still like to do something beforehand.” As with the other comments, Bild’s source claims the players were utterly baffled by the remark.
What this report means in the broader context of Bayern’s struggles is difficult to assess. The news is obviously alarming, and moreover unwelcome fuel to the fire of speculation surrounding the embattled coach. The timing of Bild’s report also undermines Kovac on the eve of Bayern’s game against SL Benfica, right after he attempted to radiate confidence and determination at today’s press conference. Kovac denied that the words “give up” are part of his vocabulary and said he is determined to keep fighting, but at least one player seems intent on ousting the coach and all too eager to pass along any hint that Kovac himself might expect to be fired.