Niko Kovac’s top five moments at Bayern Munich

Niko Kovac returns to Bayern Munich on matchday two where the current Wolfsburg manager won the Bundesliga both on the pitch and in the dugout – looks back at the highlights of Kovac’s career at the Bavarian giants.

1) Summer 2001: The first time

Bayern had just won the UEFA Champions League for the fourth time in club history – and the first since 1976 – when they picked Kovac from Hamburg, his Bundesliga compatriot. Aged 29 at the time, “the most dangerous defensive midfielder in front of goal” – according to then HSV coach Frank Pagelsdorf – was also an established Croatia international, although sneaking in the Bayern midfield was going to be difficult.

“I know it won’t be easy at Bayern,” said Kovac, who had Bayern icons such as Stefan Effenberg, Mehmet Scholl, Hasan Salihamidzic, Owen Hargreaves and Jens Jeremies as competitors for midfield spots. “But I like taking on sporting challenges. If I had wanted it easy, I would have stayed at HSV.”

Niko Kovac won the Bundesliga-DFB Cup double with Bayern Munich in 2002/03, a feat he repeated as a manager. – /

Soon joined by his younger brother Robert, he made just 34 Bundesliga appearances during his two seasons at Bayern, but he helped them win the Intercontinental Cup – the ancestor of the Club World Cup in FIFA – and the 2002/03 Bundesliga-DFB Cup double. . He would later repeat that last feat as club coach, a feat he only shares with current German manager Hansi Flick, who replaced Kovac in the 2019/20 season, after winning the title champion as a Bayern player at the end. 80 years.

2) April 13, 2018: The second (Bayern) arrives

Kovac was the coach of Eintracht Frankfurt when he was wanted to replace Jupp Heynckes as Bayern manager with a few months left in the season. Still a professional, he actually beat Bayern in the DFB Cup final just weeks before taking over on a three-year deal that included Robert’s job as an assistant.

Bayern Munich appointed Niko Kovac as Jupp Heynckes’ successor at the start of the 2018/19 season. – Sebastien Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images

“We are really happy to have been able to sign Niko Kovac as Bayern’s new coach,” said former Bayern team-mate Salihamidzic, now the club’s sporting director. “Niko was a Bayern player, he knows the people very well as well as the structure and the DNA of the club. We are convinced that he is the right coach for the future of Bayern.”

3) April 6, 2019: Bayern 5-0 Borussia Dortmund

Bayern had twice lost the lead to lose 3-2 in the first Klassiker of the season, and were in fifth position – seven points behind their league-leading opponents – after the loss, which was already their third of the season. The loss came in a three-game winless streak which, for the Bavarian giants, was a significant swing. It wasn’t going to happen again.

Bayern have lost just one more game all season, but by Matchday 28 they still trail Dortmund by two points at the top of the table, with Lucien Favre’s side having won their last three games. At the final whistle, Kovac’s men were only a point ahead, but they had shown on the pitch that the gap in class was much greater.

Look: Bayern tear Dortmund apart in Der Klassiker

Mats Hummels’ first opener against the club where he had made a name for himself and won back-to-back Bundesliga titles set the tone as Bayern took a 4-0 lead at half-time. Another BVB alum, Robert Lewandowski, added his second of the game after the break to underline the hosts’ utter dominance.

“A point is nothing,” Hummels said. Maybe not, but Kovac’s team had made a resounding declaration of intent.

4) May 18, 2019: Bayern 5-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Two points clear of Dortmund with just 90 minutes remaining in the season, Kovac’s side knew they only needed to match BVB’s result against top four Borussia Mönchengladbach to be certain of securing a seventh Consecutive Meisterschale.

But doing just enough is not in Bayern’s DNA. Kingsley Coman’s fourth-minute opener got the party started, and although Sebastien Haller equalized early in the second half, Bayern blasted Frankfurt with goals from David Alaba and Renato Sanches .

Look: Bayern seal title in style and give ‘Robbery’ a fitting farewell

Then the Hollywood storyline began as Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben – both playing their final league matches for Bayern – found the net to wrap up a massive victory and add another league winner‘s medal to their collection.

“I took two notes today in the meeting. One was that we wanted to become champions, of course. But we wanted to do better and give both [Robben and Ribery] a nice farewell,” said Kovac, who is matched by Franz Beckenbauer and Flick as the only men to have won the Bundesliga with Bayern as a player and manager.

“They both came off the bench and scored. You couldn’t plan this better. I like that a lot because they shaped the Bundesliga for 10 years. They shaped this club.”

5) May 25, 2019: The double, and a triple

For the third consecutive season, Kovac guided his team to the DFB Cup final, but Bayern didn’t do it easily. There were one-goal wins against the home sides in the first two rounds, extra time was needed to beat Hertha Berlin, second division Heidenheim led 4-3 with 13 minutes remaining at the Allianz Arena in quarter-final, and Werder Bremen came back from a 2-0 deficit to lose by an odd goal out of five in the semi-final.

“I wrote it in pencil at the start of the season: ‘Guys, we have to get there!'” Kovac said of his early-campaign ambitions, admitting his team initially made him doubtful. the realization of it. “You start warming up on the pitch, surrounded by this party atmosphere, and you know that all of Germany wants to see you crash. Thoughts start going through your head, as you stand there and you smell of beer and sausage, thoughts like, ‘Could we be knocked out? What an embarrassment that would be.’ Berlin is far away at times like this. So it starts.”

Niko Kovac won his third DFB Cup to cap off a successful first season for him in charge of Bayern Munich. -Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Given Bayern’s jaw-dropping style of reaching the final, the fact that RB Leipzig – in their first-ever final – finished third in the Bundesliga that season meant fans arriving at the Olympiastadion surely had to be expect a thriller.

Instead, Bayern found some extra kit and secured a 3-0 win, although Lewandowski’s second of the game came just five minutes from time and shortly after Coman added the second as the club claimed its 19th Pokal.

“When you’re at Bayern you want to win everything,” Kovac said after scoring a hat-trick of German Cup victories in his career. “The DFB Cup is the shortest route to a title – it’s not always easy, but it’s always important. Football is about winning.”

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