Bayern Munich may find themselves in the unusual position of chasing leaders Borussia Dortmund just past the season’s halfway point, but with the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Alphonso Davies at his disposal, coach Niko Kovac is anything but worried.
bundesliga.com: How would you sum up your first seven months as Bayern coach?
Niko Kovac: “Coming to Munich from Frankfurt was a big jump. I think it was a very lively start, I experienced a lot in these first seven months, both ups and downs. Now we’re on the up again and I hope we can keep it going for as long as possible.”
bundesliga.com: Have you grown with this challenge?
Kovac: “Yes, every coach and person develops daily and over the years and it’s the same with me. I’ve experienced a lot here, taken on a lot, reflected a lot and I try to better myself and help make this team better.”
Watch: Kovac talks exclusively about Bayern life and the future...
bundesliga.com: How has Bayern developed as a club in the time between Kovac the player and Kovac the coach?
Kovac: “Everything has become a lot bigger since, to be honest. When I first started, Bayern Munich were already among the greats, but things have expanded massively. The growth of social media alone, when it comes to fans and members, which is important at Bayern, you can see that there’s a lot more than in my time. It’s not so easy to work with, you see that everything’s reported on, regardless of what’s happened, whether it’s important or not. What’s important now was totally unimportant in the past and every small thing is now turned into a story.”
bundesliga.com: What do you think of the title race? Bayern are in the unusual position of being the chaser, not the chased...
Kovac: “It’s a special situation, one which Bayern haven’t been in for the past six years, but that’s how it is. The other clubs aren’t sleeping, they’re also developing and it’s the same in other leagues, where it’s not always the very best clubs at the top. We’re not completely satisfied with the situation, we’d like to be first, but we’re making the most out of it, we’re trying to deliver performances, win matches and to close the gap Borussia Dortmund have at the top. We’re confident of doing all of that, and we’re confident we’ll get there in the end.”
Watch: Dortmund edged Bayern 3-2 when the teams met in November
Kovac: “They’re all top talents, top German talents, who’ve all appeared for Germany youth teams, showing their potential, and they’re all now full international players, not just Bayern players, and that’s what Bayern want to have, good talented German players, national team players, which is what we also have with Niklas Süle, for example. I think that these guys and this club will support the national team in the future.”
bundesliga.com: What can we expect from Alphonso Davies?
Kovac: “Alphonso’s a really big talent from North America, who’s taking his first steps. He needs to be integrated into German culture, learn the language, and I have to help him become familiar with the playing system and the intensity. But he’s a player who sooner or later will become a very important part of this club and with his abilities I’m confident he’ll do it very quickly.”
bundesliga.com: Bayern seem to be in an interesting period of transition at the moment. Do you see yourself as the trend-setter or visionary behind this new direction?
Kovac: “It’s always a process. In football, players can only play for so long and then you have to look at bringing young players and fresh blood in, and they need to have a certain quality. I think in Frankfurt, together we proved that we could carry out an upheaval, not just once but twice in a row. We’re confident here at the club that we can manage to carry it out at Bayern, not just in the next one or two years, but in the next 10, and that we’re set up with players who can keep winning titles over the years.”
bundesliga.com: Robert Lewandowski really established himself at Bayern. How do you see his standing at the club now?
Kovac: “Lewy is a leader, he’s the captain of the Poland national team, someone who leads the way with his character and qualities. Of course, he scores goals, but I think he does a lot more for the team. I read that he has more assists than anyone else this season, which shows his importance to the team, not just in attack, but in defence too. He’s an important player for the team, and also for the coach.”
Watch: What makes Lewandowski so special?
bundesliga.com: How will Lewandowski go down in Bayern’s, and indeed the Bundesliga’s, history?
Kovac: “Certainly as one of the best in the Bundesliga. I’m not sure how many goals he’s scored at Dortmund and in Munich, he may not quite match Gerd Müller, but he’ll definitely try to get close. For me he is in the top three in the world, that I can clearly say and Bayern can be happy that we have him here with us.”