Bayern Munich’s resounding 5-1 victory over SL Benfica bought embattled Niko Kovac precious time. After Bayern had dropped points against Fortuna Düsseldorf last Saturday, languishing in 5th place in the league table nine points behind Borussia Dortmund, it seemed conceivable that the club might dismiss Kovac after another disappointing performance.
But Kovac rebounded, addressed the team in what surely was a forceful locker room speech after the game, and the team responded.
Now Bayern Munich’s chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, has also spoken in support of Kovac in an interview with AZ. Rummenigge indicated that the club overwhelmingly wants to see Kovac succeed. It is, he said,
the wish of all us at FC Bayern to collaborate with Niko Kovac for a long time. It’s my wish that he not only is our coach on Christmas Even 2018, but also in 2019 and in 2020.
In other words, Rummenigge would like to see Kovac at least see out his three-year contract, which runs through the end of the 2020-2021 season. AZ understood Rummenigge as indicating support for Kovac until the winter break — whether from these words or another, unquoted part of the interview.
Rummenigge also praised Kovac’s character, which has undoubtedly been tested over the past weeks and months.
He knows Bayern Munich. He’s an extreme character — in a positive sense. He’s a person (Mensch) that I like. I see a coach who fights, who’s ready to change a few things. And he has to change a few things.
Kovac indeed now must build on Bayern’s performance against Benfica and battle its way back up the Bundesliga table, beginning with Werder Bremen this weekend. Rummenigge said, “Everyone is prepared to give Niko Kovac this chance.” But he also emphasized that he must deliver results.
At the end of the day, the results have to match. Fifth place is not the place that the team can hold at the end of the season.
The front office thus appears to accept the increasingly likely scenario that Bayern may not win the championship, but it also may not finish all too far behind the eventual winner. Given the prestige and lucrativeness of participation in the Champions League, fourth place is very likely the absolute minimum, though even that may not suffice.
Rummenigge also touched on the speculation concerning his own and Uli Hoeness’s future with the club. His own term as chairman will expire in 2019, and Hoeness has also recently broached the idea of stepping aside from Bayern, and many have touted Oliver Kahn as a potential successor.
Regarding the eventual changing of the guard, Rummenigge said, ”It won’t be easy to find a new Hoeness or a successor for me. We have to try to provide for a smooth transition.” Rummenigge made clear he does not want to outstay his welcome. “You also have to be prepared to let go at some point. I wouldn’t want to be part of the *Pet Sematary.”
Rummenigge denied, however, that any decision had yet been made regarding his future,
*The German translation of Pet Semetary is “Friedhof der Kuscheltiere,” i.e “Graveyard of cuddly (stuffed) animals”