Former Bayern Munich coach and newly installed AS Monaco coach Niko Kovac has given his first major interview since departing Munich last fall. In conversation with Bild (Wednesday print edition), Kovac expressed his happiness for Bayern’s treble-winning season and revealed that it was he who had the idea of hiring his eventual replacement, Hansi Flick.
Bild asked Kovac whether he was entitled to a Champions League bonus despite the fact that his contract ran only through the summer of 2020 and the club did not activate its option for a third year. Kovac clarified that latter point:
“It was a 2+1 contract, you’re right about that,” he said. “The last year did not take effect, because the contract was dissolved before March 31. But to come back to your question: yes, I really did receive a Champions League bonus.”
In point of fact, Kovac offered his resignation after meeting with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidzic in the wake of a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. It was as amicable a separation as could be imagined in professional soccer.
Despite Bayern’s struggles in the Bundesliga, Kovac guided the team undefeated through the group stage of the tournament, a feat continued by Flick through the final itself. Kovac rejected the notion that he crossed his fingers for Bayern only because he stood to win a bonus:
“Those who know me know that I’m not steered by money. At no point during the final did I have the feeling that FC Bayern can lose. I didn’t cross my fingers for Bayern because of the bonus, but rather because I wanted it for the people in the club. Sure I would have loved to have been there. But the bottom line is: Hansi did great, the boys played super. That’s why I was happy. I’m not a person who says, ‘After me, things should go bad.’ I congratulated everyone from the bottom of my heart.”
Kovac does not begrudge Flick his success with his former team at all. Bild asked whether it annoyed him that his work is constantly compared with Flick’s. Kovac said:
“I can’t change that. Comparisons are always lame. Hansi did awesome, period. Done. The team didn’t lose for the entire Rückrunde, scored 100 goals. The way that the team played soccer, is his handiwork. Not many more teams will achieve the Treble, except perhaps on the Playstation. I’m not envious of Hansi: I brought him on board, so in the end I could also contribute my part after all [grinning].”
Indeed, as Bild followed up, Kovac explained he himself went to Uli Hoeness with the idea of hiring the man who ultimately replaced him and won a Treble. As Kovac explained it: “Hansi Flick was my idea. I went to my brother Robert and to Uli Hoeness with it. Uli had the same idea, we quickly were agreed. Our thoughts about Hansi squared exactly.”
In hindsight, Kovac acknowledged that his former players needed a new approach. Bild asked him why things ceased to work, leading to his departure. Kovac said:
“Perhaps the team needed new impulse, a new way of addressing them. Hansi has very many qualities. A big one is his shared successful past with many German national players. It was sad at the time, and I was disappointed. But: whoever doesn’t know how you lose hasn’t deserved to win. That’s life: I’ve often fallen down, but I always get back up.”
Kovac also gave some insight into his new project at Monaco. His new training grounds are decidedly not extravagant:
“Not at all, on the contrary: at the moment things are rather Spartan for us. Reconstruction is taking place; a new training ground is supposed to open in March. At the moment, our offices are in containers. But I like it: it smells like work, like sweat. So I’m lacking for nothing.”
Kovac is currently working to trip Monaco’s bloated roster from 41 players down to 25. He said Monaco cannot keep on buying players. “We’re not swimming in coins like Scrooge McDuck in his vault,” he said. “In some cases, 20 million was spent on 17, 18-year-olds. The last two years, international business was missed and this income went missing. Our goal is to have Monaco playing internationally again as quickly as possible.”
Alles Gute, Niko!