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Niko Kovac says Lionel Messi is the best, pegs Real Madrid to go far in the Champions League

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Kind words for Messi and Real Madrid from the Bayern Munich boss.

FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session
MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 04: New team coach Niko Kovac of FC Bayern Muenchen gives a thumb up as he arrives for his first training session at the club's Saebener Strasse training court on July 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session MUNICH, GERMANY - JULY 04: New team coach Niko Kovac of FC Bayern Muenchen gives a thumb up as he arrives for his first training session at the club’s Saebener Strasse training court on July 4, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
(Photo by A. Beier/Getty Images for FC Bayern)

Niko Kovac has got Bayern Munich off to a flying start this season, having won all five of their competitive fixtures thus far: 3 matches in the Bundesliga, the DFL Supercup, and the first round DFB-Pokal win. Sitting atop the Bundesliga table after three matchdays, Bayern are already looking poised to march on to their 7th-consecutive title and push hard in both the Champions League and DFB-Pokal.

As the Champions League group stages have started up, Kovac revealed that he believes Real Madrid will go far again this year, but admitted that they’re not the same squad without Cristiano Ronaldo (via Goal):

Yes, Real Madrid have won the title three times in a row which is unique. I do not know if that will happen again in the near future. Real Madrid without Cristiano Ronaldo are of course not what they were with Ronaldo, but they’re still a very good team. It’s great to win the Champions League three times but you also have to remember that they only won La Liga once during those three years. Barcelona won the title twice, so you can’t have everything. To perform well in all three competitions is very difficult. But I am convinced that Real Madrid will play a big role again.

Despite his admiration for Real Madrid’s continued success in the Champions League, Kovac believes that Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is the best, and that he’ll continue to be for years to come:

I have to say that for me Lionel Messi is the best in the world, that was already true a few years ago and it will continue to be so in the future.

Messi’s counterpart in Ronaldo, Kovac admitted, has shown great improvements throughout his career, molding himself into one of the world’s best:

Ronaldo is also a world-class player. With him, I am impressed by the way the man stands. This is not innate...but also trained. A lot of players are naturally talented, but you also have to work to improve yourself. That’s what Ronaldo did in a fantastic way.

Even though he’s dealing with a handful of injuries to his squad, Kovac also believes that his core group of players has the quality to go the distance on all fronts:

I am glad that the core of the squad stayed together. There have been three departures, with Rudy, Vidal and Bernat, but the majority of the team has been playing together for several years, Franck Ribery has been here for 10 years and Arjen Robben has been here for quite some time. That’s an advantage. The structure stands, the processes stand. The way it is, it is good. We will certainly step by step - as the club always does — try to improve and strengthen, with younger players and of course, bring the necessary quality.