As the Bayern Munich fanbase collectively recovers from the shock of yesterday’s events, new details are coming out regarding the state of the dressing room prior to Niko Kovac’s departure. Bild has published a report on the coach’s final video session, where he was met with apathy and indifference from his own players.
According to Bild’s version of events, Kovac spoke to the team for 20 minutes, critiquing each of them by name. Some tidbits include:
- Serge Gnabry: “You lose the ball too easily!”
- Kingsley Coman: “You stand there and Thomas fights.” (i.e. Coman stands around while Thomas Müller never gives up)
- Thiago: “You shouldn’t do magic.” (i.e. keep it simple, no tricks — that lead to turnovers)
- Jerome Boateng about the red card: “You have to go into that situation much more cleverly.”
Kovac was also generally displeased with the defense:
We have superior numbers at the back and concede goals ...
According to Bild, the players looked “dumbfounded at the floor” during the personal criticism, which conjures the mental of a group of kids being told off by their teacher in middle school. Kovac continued,
You don’t listen! We discuss and practice things, and you don’t apply them.
We don’t know where Bild got this info from (another mole?) but the picture it paints isn’t pretty. The coach seemed to have lost the ability to communicate with his team, which is a recipe for disaster in any profession. In addition, Kovac’s public criticism had allegedly annoyed the players, while he exempted himself and his staff from any scrutiny and took credit for successful tactical moves.
It all reads like the final days of Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Manchester United. In case you’re out of the loop, Mourinho lost his locker room due to excessive public criticism, which was apparently an ill-advised attempt to motivate his players. Did no one see it coming? Sometimes, criticism can be beneficial, but it was clear that Kovac’s repeated complaints to the media would eventually earn him the cold shoulder from his team. The lack of tactical innovation by the coach didn’t help matters — his starting XI against Eintracht Frankfurt had five out of eleven players playing out of position.
In any case, if Bild’s version of events is true, then it’s no wonder that Kovac resigned. Even if the bosses gave him two more games to turn it around, he never could have beaten Olympiacos and Borussia Dortmund with such a jaded and dejected team.
The fact that the situation was allowed to get this bad in the first place is potentially not his fault. As the sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic must also bear some responsibility. Shouldn’t he have seen it coming and taken some steps to rectify the situation? He is in charge of the sporting division of the club and has now presided over two locker room disasters in just three years — the first under Carlo Ancelotti back in 2017.
As Bayern Munich heads into the post-Kovac era, the entire organization needs a moment of introspection. Niko Kovac was guilty of many mistakes in his tenure, but his departure was not inevitable. Perhaps, if some things had been done better, things could have gone differently. Whoever comes in next, be it Erik ten Hag or Massimiliano Allegri, if Bayern want the next coach to be a success, then lessons must be learned from the Niko Kovac era.