Hasan Salihamidzic and Niko Kovac were lying in each other’s arms and stretched out their hands to the sky. They had just beaten Real Madrid 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the Champions League with FC Bayern. Uli Hoeneß and Kalle Rummenigge rose from their green bucket seats up in the stands of the Olympic Stadium and, with their typical satisfied and sometimes almost mischievous smiles on their faces, receiving well-deserved applause.
It is quite possible that this scene from April 2, 2002 will be repeated in a year or so – with the difference that the seats in the Allianz Arena are grey. FC Bayern have once again managed to recreate a formidable style and become perhaps the most close-knit club in the world.
With the appointment of Niko Kovac as the new coach, who will succeed Jupp Heynckes, the club bosses will be replacing external know-how with FCB veterans within not quite two seasons. Instead of Sammer and Reschke, Brazzo now runs day-to-day business – but, as one learns from the club environment, he does so with a lot of heart and astonishing skill.
Bravest decision since Klinsmann
Soon Niko Kovac will be sitting on the bench instead of Pep Guardiola or Carlo Ancelotti. Unlike his predecessors, Kovac is almost the lowest possible solution to the trainer question. It doesn’t take two looks to see what Hoeneß and Rummenigge like about the Croatian: He is young, he speaks German, he knows the Bundesliga, he comes from the family – and, as harsh as it may sound, he is one hundred percent controllable.
Nevertheless, it would be a big mistake to use the Kovac commitment as a reason for a blanket attack on the FCB’s family policy. The leading trio obviously have the courage to go a different way than the majority of the big European clubs, where small names are usually excluded from the outset.
Niko Kovac as FC Bayern coach is in many ways an experiment, perhaps the most exciting since Jürgen Klinsmann in 2008/09. Then like today, they had confidence in a young coach who had never worked under triple load before, who did not yet know the pressure that exists on a Bayern coach. The question is: will this fail again?
No toxic atmosphere
Probably not. There is an astonishing number in favour of Kovac, whom very few really believe is capable of achieving major success and whose work in Frankfurt is nevertheless appreciated by most. Eintracht was able to lead Kovac into the international business, and he was able to form a team with a clear concept and a lot of potential.
At FC Bayern he will find higher quality, but also more challenging playing material – which he will, however, be able to cope with. Why? It is hard to imagine that the long-time captain and manager of a wild Croatian national team did not understand how to lead a team. The team is in good hands, especially if Peter Herrmann should actually remain on board as co-trainer.
But Niko Kovac is not a nerd and certainly not a laptop trainer. Many supporters’ wish for a return to an outstanding tactical concept a la Guardiola will therefore not come true. Anyone who analyses the situation at FC Bayern in detail, however, will have to realize that a tactician in the combination with Hoeneß at the top would not be in good hands. Before the club develops a toxic mood with further conflicts from within, a “smaller” solution may be better.
FC Bayern has made a family-oriented, risky and in some ways unpopular choice in Niko Kovac. Whether the decision will be crowned with success is not predictable. It’s a fact: FC Bayern for the 2018/19 season will radiate more Mia san Mia self-confidence than ever before and at the same time take an enormous risk. A high place in the Bundesliga is still highly probable, so the Champions League result is all the more important.
One will therefore have to see whether history repeats itself and Hoeneß-Rummenigge can proudly look down onto the lawn in April 2019, where Hasan Salihamidzic and Niko Kovac lie in each other’s arms.