Niko Kovac is 100% dedicated to getting Bayern Munich through a successful transition between experience and youth. If we needed any more evidence of his intentions, in Bayern’s latest game against Hoffenheim, he made Niklas Süle his first center-back on the team sheet. That’s a 23-year-old coming before two World Cup winning defenders in Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng fresh from the winter break.
We saw hints of Kovac’s preference during the Hinrunde, as Süle made 16 appearances out of 17 Bundesliga matches. However, now it’s absolutely clear that even when all the center-backs are fully fit and ready to go, the youngest of the bunch will always get the nod.
Responding to questions from Sport1, Nikas Süle gave his perspective on the situation:
I have been allowed to play a lot of games and am very satisfied with my role. I think that I’ve earned the trust of the club, and they see that they can trust me as well. At Bayern you have to deliver in every game; we have two players at every position and only have top players. If you don’t play one or two games so well, you’re back out of the team pretty fast.
Süle alluded to the fact that Bayern is expected to win every single game they play. That, of course, is the struggle that haunts Niko Kovac and every decision he makes. He has to pick and choose which players to integrate in the squad, while making sure the team he picks will still win the game. For this reason, it’s not hard to see why the manager loves Süle so much. He fulfills both of the aforementioned responsibilities of the coach, because he’s a great player that will win games, but is only 23.
Captain Manuel Neuer also weighed in:
The coach also wants to give the players confidence. For him as a young player that’s very good, of course. It gives him self-confidence and maybe a little peace so he can have his head held high.
So Niko Kovac needs to continue to identify players in similar situations to Süle; players that are ready to take the reins from their predecessors and contribute for years to come. Once players like Renato Sanches, Alphonso Davies, and even Lars Lukas Mai are developed enough, then the youth revolution can commence.