Despite leading Bayern Munich to the verge of two titles, Niko Kovac’s future as coach remains up in the air.
Bayern can clinch the Bundesliga title at home against Eintracht Frankfurt — Kovac’s former team — on Saturday, one week before the team’s German Cup final against Leipzig in Berlin.
But with persistent doubts over his authority and experience dogging his first season in charge, even a domestic double might not be enough. Bayern’s management has been less than convincing in its support for the 47-year-old Croat after a season in which the team hasn’t displayed the authority of before.
“We’ll see,” Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said earlier this month to repeated questions about Kovac’s future, adding that the club had bigger priorities for now. “At this time when we can achieve a lot and win two titles, we’d be well advised not to waste our energy on questions of personnel.”
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz-Rummenigge was also less than forthcoming in defending Kovac, saying he had “no problem with him” and warning, “at Bayern Munich, players, management and coaches have to deliver.”
Kovac has struggled for authority since Bayern went four games without a win in late September-early October. The club lashed out at the media on Oct. 19 for “derogatory, slanderous reporting” of its bad run, and felt compelled to address an Instagram post criticizing Kovac from Lisa Mueller, forward Thomas Mueller’s wife, for only using her husband as a substitute.
Kovac, who led Frankfurt to victory over his future club in last season’s German Cup final, is going for his first league title as coach. But his team missed the chance to clinch it in a scoreless draw at Leipzig last weekend and dropped points at relegated Nuremberg two weeks before.
That Bayern is still in contention has more to do with rival Borussia Dortmund’s inability to defend a lead. Dortmund led Bayern by nine points earlier in the season and has developed an inopportune habit of conceding late goals.
Dortmund could yet win the Bundesliga title with a victory at Borussia Moenchengladbach if Frankfurt beats Bayern in Munich at the same time.
Kovac, who played as a defensive midfielder for Bayern from 2001-03, said Thursday he was uninterested in the speculation over his coaching future.
“I’m totally independent. I don’t need to earn millions. Money is not my primary concern. Whatever comes, comes,” said Kovac, who has a contract at Bayern through 2021.
“I like this job and would like to fulfill my contract,” Kovac said. “And I’ve never given up on anything in my life – never.”