There’s no disguising the fact that Niko Kovac experienced a difficult stretch in his first season as Bayern Munich manager. A run of poor results put him under the proverbial microscope, but a strong December saw his side pull within six points of Borussia Dortmund, which currently sits atop the Bundesliga table.
Bayern rounded out their hinrunde with a convincing 3-0 win over Kovac’s previous employers, Eintracht Frankfurt at the Commerzbank-Arena. After the final whistle, Kovac was warmly greeted by Frankfurt’s president, Peter Fischer. The two exchanged a hug followed by a brief conversation where Fischer wished Kovac all the best.
In an interview with Sport1’s Florian Plettenberg , Fischer spoke highly of Kovac’s character:
Niko is an incredibly possessed, fair, diligent person. That’s comes to a great extent from his faith. Faith balances him. He’s thus also not an unfair person; he can’t put up with injustices hardly at all. Niko is a coach people follow and can trust. With him, yes means yes and no means no. That’s not true of every coach.
Fischer also commented on the contrast between Frankfurt and Bayern and how Kovac has had to adapt to the strong personalities among the squad with Bayern:
At Frankfurt, Kovac was where scarcely a single player had won anything. Munich, in contrast, is full of everything-winners. Bayern’s players have high self-confidence and a high self-understanding and had to adjust to a new coach who did a ton of things differently.
At Frankfurt, the prospect of dealing with such large personalities and egos wasn’t nearly as relevant as it is at Bayern. With a younger, less experienced squad, Kovac rarely had to deal with players challenging his ideas and questioning his tactics:
With us, things were definitely simpler — when you’ve told a 19-year-old something versus going up to someone like Franck Ribery and explaining to him what he has to do to be better. I think that caused friction.
Fischer, unlike a lot of the other members of Frankfurt’s front office, was totally understanding of Kovac’s decision to leave to become Bayern manager. Kovac had announced his decision before last season had concluded, which was taken too kindly by some members of Frankfurt’s hierarchy, but Fischer didn’t hold any resentment Kovac’s decision:
I could understand completely that a coach would go to Bayern Munich if he got an offer from them.
Fischer feels that Kovac was not to blame for Bayern’s rough start to the 2018/2019 campaign. Rather, he feels that Bayern’s lack of activity in the summer transfer window heavily contributed to their early struggles and that some of the rumors of potential departures didn’t make Kovac’s job any easier:
That doesn’t have anything to do with Niko Kovac. In my view, it was because of their transfer policy, which made me think: “Oh boy!” Then they also send the Warrior [i.e. Arturo Vidal] away, too! There were also transfer rumors about Jerome Boateng. I thought to myself that that was not an especially good start for Niko.
Going forward, Fischer is confident Kovac will be at Bayern for seasons to come and that they’ll be in an even better place in the near future. He also thinks that Bayern have enough time to catch Dortmund and beat them to the title at the end of the season:
When they bring in reinforcements sensibly and coolly — and Bayern has always done that — then Niko Kovac is a coach who will make the team and players better. That’s why I can imagine that we’ll meet again in four years and say, “Kovac is still there.” I think Borussia Dortmund isn’t German champion yet!”