Eintracht Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac will take over at Bayern next season – but who is he and how has he earned the role?
Niko Kovac is a surprise selection as the new Bayern Munich coach, replacing veteran Jupp Heynckes in the Allianz Arena dugout.
Thomas Tuchel had been regarded as a frontrunner, before Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge claimed the former Borussia Dortmund boss – expected to replace Unai Emery at Paris Saint-Germain – has agreed a deal with another club.
Eintracht Frankfurt are unhappy with the way the Bavarians have appointed Kovac, but the Croatian will take charge next season after agreeing a three-year deal.
The 46-year-old remains somewhat of an unknown quantity, though, so here are 10 things you might not know about the incoming Bayern boss.
1. From relegation danger to the Champions League?
Kovac is relatively inexperienced – Eintracht was his first club job and he was only appointed in March 2016. Although he was unable to steer them out of the Bundesliga’s bottom three in his first season, he oversaw a 2-1 aggregate victory over Nurnberg in the relegation play-off. Now he has them in contention for Champions League qualification.
2. Kovac brothers come as a package
Kovac will be joined at Bayern by his younger brother Robert, who also acts as his assistant in Frankfurt. The siblings played together at international level, as well as at Bayern.
3. Domestic double in Bavaria
During a brief stint on Bayern’s playing staff, the former defensive midfielder won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in the 2002-03 season. However, he was not a regular in the team.
💬 #Heynckes on Kovač: "I've read his biography and it's very positive. He is working with many different types of player with varying nationalities in Frankfurt, and he's doing a wonderful job. He is no doubt predestined to coach #FCBayern." pic.twitter.com/rV7rJ94tDf
— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) April 13, 2018
4. A history of leadership
Kovac captained Croatia towards the end of his playing career and his brother took over the armband when Niko retired from international football. The duo returned to take charge of their country for the 2014 World Cup campaign.
5. Preference for a back three
Kovac typically uses a 3-4-2-1 formation at Eintracht, which would mean a change of shape for Bayern, who usually line up with a back four under Heynckes.
The press conference is under way. 🎙 #Kovac on his move to @FCBayernEN: "I said one week ago that I'd had no contact with FC Bayern. That all changed yesterday when I received a telephone call and a contract offer from Munich."#SGE pic.twitter.com/i0fNsapwQa
— Eintracht Frankfurt (@eintracht_eng) April 13, 2018
6. Good news for Ribery and Robben
The futures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben have been in doubt all season, with their contracts expiring at the end of the campaign. But shortly after the announcement of Kovac’s appointment, Bayern confirmed talks are ongoing with the experienced duo. Kovac has stated he likes to play with wide attackers. “I’m a fan of wingers,” he said. “For example, when I see Robben and Ribery, it gets my heart racing.”
7. An international dressing room at Eintracht
Kovac has overseen the most international dressing room in the Bundesliga, with 18 different nationalities represented at the club. While Bayern’s squad is strongly German-flavoured, this experience can only stand him in good stead at the Allianz Arena.
— Eintracht Frankfurt (@Eintracht) January 29, 2018
8. A cup specialist
Kovac led Eintracht to the final of the DFB-Pokal last season, although Borussia Dortmund proved too strong and won 2-1. But Kovac’s men could repeat the trick this term – they face Schalke in the semi-finals next week and he may yet meet his new club Bayern in the final.
9. Born in Berlin
Bayern made it clear only German speakers would be considered for the role, meaning Kovac ticked a box many big-name coaches could not. Although he represented Croatia, Kovac was born in Germany’s capital city – he is the son of Yugoslavian immigrants.
50 – Niko #Kovac will take charge of @FCBayernEN exactly 50 years after the last Croatian coach did, Branko Zebec, who won the first #Bundesliga title with the club in 1969. Trener. pic.twitter.com/7tEWYiljwR
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) April 13, 2018
10. A €2.2million coach
Reports in Germany have suggested Bayern paid €2.2million to release Kovac from his Eintracht contract. The Bundesliga champions are famously unwilling to pay excessive fees for players and they may well have landed another bargain.