Bayern Munich confirm Niko Kovac as next coach, angering Eintracht Frankfurt
Bayern Munich confirmed Niko Kovac as the club's next manager on Friday but drew sharp criticism from his current employers, Eintracht Frankfurt, for allegedly leaking the news a day earlier.
Kovac, a former Croatia midfielder and coach, played for Bayern between 2001 and 2003, winning the Club World Cup in 2001 and a domestic league and cup double in 2003. He will take over in July for interim coach Jupp Heynckes, who plans to retire at the end of the season.
Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic confirmed Kovac had signed a three-year contract, after the club triggered a reported €2.2 million release clause in the 46-year-old's Eintracht Frankfurt deal.
But the official announcement came one day after multiple reports in Germany had already broken the news, and Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic hit out at Bayern for a lack of professionalism.
"[Kovac's decision] surprised us, period, which is extremely important for Frankfurt," Bobic said. "We are going into many important games. The timing is not good.
"Information was stuck through to the media, and certainly not from Frankfurt. That's annoying, unprofessional and without any respect."
With only five matches left, Frankfurt only trail fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen -- their opponents on Saturday -- by two points for the final Champions League qualification spot. In addition, they travel to Schalke in the German cup, and would go up against Bayern in the final if both sides win their semifinals.
"There was no contact between the clubs," Bobic added. "But everything immediately was made public. Every detail. Those are things I have never experienced at Bundesliga level. It's got nothing to do with a togetherness. If you want to treat other clubs like that, go ahead.
"Yes, there was an option for Niko Kovac to get out of the contract if an absolute European top club came. It's annoying we must talk about this. That information also came exclusively from another big German city."
Kovac said he was only offered the job only on Thursday and then made his decision to accept it. He said that "it has nothing to do with Fredi or me that things were made public the way it happened."
In announcing Kovac's hiring earlier in the day, Salihamidzic said Bayern were "very happy that we could secure Niko Kovac's services."
"Niko was a Bayern player and knows the people in charge, the structures and the DNA of the club very well," Salihamidzic said. "We are convinced that he is the right coach for Bayern's future."
Berlin-born Kovac took over at Frankfurt in March 2016 and helped the club survive a relegation playoff that season before finishing 11th last year, when they reached the DFB Pokal final. This season, he has led them to fifth in the Bundesliga.
Kovac's first senior coaching job came with the Croatia national team, whom he led at the 2014 World Cup. As a player, he had captained the side at the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008.
Heynckes, who already secured the Bundesliga title this season and will still lead the team in the DFB Pokal and Champions League in the coming weeks, praised the appointment.
"I looked at Niko Kovac's biography. He was a good Bundesliga player, and even played two years at Bayern," Heynckes said. "The first time I took note of him was at the 2014 World Cup. That's an incredible challenge, and the performances were not all that bad. They put in a great match in the opener against Brazil. He left his mark.
"After he was appointed at Frankfurt in 2016, he first saved them from relegation in the playoffs versus Nurnberg, and then got them to the cup final the following year. They were unfortunate to lose 2-1 to Dortmund, but that result in itself is remarkable.
"They will most likely make the Champions League this season, or if not at least qualify for Europe. They are back in the last four of the German cup.
"He's got a very, very positive biography. And he worked with a lot of different personalities and nationalities at Frankfurt. He is predestined for the coaching job at Bayern. I believe Bayern have made a good choice."
Former Borussia Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel had also been linked with the job, but Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said he had turned down the opportunity. Tuchel is now expected to join Paris Saint-Germain. Other targets were reported to include RB Leipzig's Ralf Hassenhuttl, Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann and Freiburg's Christian Streich.
Information from ESPN FC's Germany correspondent Stephan Uersfeld was used in this report.
Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.