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Rafinha criticizes Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac for poor rapport with the team

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After returning to his native land, the fiery Brazilian criticized Bayern coach Niko Kovac’s relationship with himself and the team.

FC Bayern Muenchen Celebrate Winning The Bundesliga Photo by Alexandra Beier/Bongarts/Getty Images

Bayern Munich’s recently departed veteran Rafinha has come clean about his strained relationship with his former coach Niko Kovac in a candid interview with Bild. In his remarks, Rafinha not only expressed his personal frustration with the coach but also recounted broader dissatisfaction on the team.

Rafinha stated, “It simply didn’t work between him and me; maybe he had no confidence in me.” He had similarly lashed out at Kovac publicly in comments to Bild in February. At the time, he expressed bewilderment that Kovac had left him on the bench in four consecutive games. He said,

I have no idea what the reason is. The coach knows that I’m leaving at the end of the season. Maybe that’s the reason.

The timing of those remarks, immediately before Bayern’s crucial Champions League clash with Liverpool, was less than ideal.

Rafinha found himself on the bench again for the entirety of his final match in a Bayern jersey, the last game of the season, against Eintracht Frankfurt. Although Rafinha merrily joined in the celebrations afterward, he was extremely disappointed. He said,

That was a low blow, the negative climax. I was so disappointed! The coach knew that it was my last game. The coach took my farewell game away from me.

When Leon Goretzka suffered an injury in the first half, Bayern leading 1-0, Kovac used his first substitution to replace him with midfielder Renato Sanches. He used his final two substitutions in the second half to bring Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben onto the pitch after Bayern was ahead 3-0. Hence Rafinha was forced to sit, although Kovac theoretically could have moved Joshua Kimmich into the midfield to replace Goretzka and put Rafinha in his place at right-back.

Rafinha also commented on tensions behind closed doors between the coach and the team. “There was a lot of stress this year,” he said, “Many players were unhappy.” Rafinha believes that “something is missing between the coach and the team.”

But despite his frustration, he wished Kovac well in the end:

I hope everything goes well with Niko, that he learns and improves things. This year it didn’t work well.


The fiery Brazilian discussed several more interesting topics in a more light-hearted follow-up interview with SportBild, above all who his worst coach was: Felix (“Quälix”) Magath! Rafinha was still at Schalke rather than at Bayern at the time. He said:

I had a lot of problems with Felix Magath. Things went well competitively; we finished second with Schalke, I scored four goals and assisted twelve. But humanly things didn’t go well. The coaching style was too hard, too much, he went too far. Magath was always proper, though; he immediately gave honest feedback. He told you to your face: “You were bad today!” but also, “Today you were the best!”

His best coach at Bayern Munich, in contrast, is not hard to guess:

In first place are Pep Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes, in second place Carlo Ancelotti.

Since Rafinha joined the club with Heynckes in 2011, the only coach omitted from the list is, of course, Kovac himself.

SportBild also asked Rafinha which player had the hardest time integrating with the team. His answer gives a glimpse of what an important presence he was in Bayern’s locker room:

There wasn’t just the one problem case. But it’s obvious, though, that a young man like Renato Sanches was shocked at first: he didn’t speak a word of German, or any English, when he came. I tried to take care of him from the very first day.

And Rafinha also had kind words for the two most important men at the club: CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and President Uli Hoeness. Rafinha recounted an amusing anecdote after he joined the club in 2011:

My neighbors were a bit upset in the beginning, because we had a party with loud music. They wrote a letter to Rummenigge and complained. But he took care of it. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was like a father for me: he always looked after me when I was sad. He was the most important person at Bayern for me. His wife Martina also helped me very much. And I will also always keep Uli Hoeness in my heart.