In the space of six months, head coach Niko Kovac has taken Eintracht Frankfurt from relegation candidates to top-six contenders via a two-legged play-off against 1. FC Nürnberg.
Such has been the club’s success that Frankfurt have moved swiftly to sign the 45-year-old to a two-year contract extension lasting until 2019. Talking exclusively to bundesliga.com, Kovac discussed the reasons behind The Eagles’ high-flying form, taking points off the Bundesliga’s star ensembles and working closely with his brother Robert.
bundesliga.com: Niko Kovac, an Eintracht side that is very similar to the one that were almost relegated to the Bundesliga 2 last season are now fifth in the standings. For a lot of people that comes as a surprise, is it the same for you?
Niko Kovac: That we’re fifth is a surprise. It’s not a surprise though, that we’ve improved. The team have come on leaps and bounds in every department whether that be in terms of conditioning, technical and tactical things or mental strength, which is of great importance. The decisive factor is that we’re consistent. So far, we’ve only suffered two real setbacks in Darmstadt and in Freiburg that hurt us at that moment in time.
The team has now proven to themselves that they can compete with the high-calibre sides.
bundesliga.com: Your team have earned themselves a great deal of respect, especially against some of the top teams in the league like FC Schalke 04, Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern München. Have you noticed your opponents perceiving your side differently?
Kovac: I’d like to say so. All of the teams in the Bundesliga are ultimately top teams, but it is true that we’ve already faced almost all the high-calibre side on home soil. We’ve won most of those games and have played out two draws. The team has now proven to themselves that they can compete with the high-calibre sides if we do everything right on our side and the opponents take us more seriously as a result. That of course makes everything a little easier than last season when we had our backs to the wall, were at the wrong end of the table and our opponents perhaps came into games thinking “we can roll over Eintracht, they don’t stand a chance against us”.
bundesliga.com: Fabian is currently one of the best-performing players in the league...
Kovac: You can see what qualities these players have. The ones that Bruno Hübner and Armin Veh picked out, shows they had a good eye for talent.
bundesliga.com: Finally a more personal question: You work together with your brother Robert, who is your assistant coach. What does that mean to you?
Kovac: It’s wonderful. If there’s anyone I trust, it’s my brother. We’ve been together all our lives (laughs). Robert and I played together in Munich, Leverkusen and the national team. He boasts an incredible level of expertise and now we have a chance to develop something special together at Eintracht. I’d like to also single out Armin Reutershahn, who was the assistant coach during my time at Hamburg. It’s important for me to have loyal, competent people on my side. Of course, it goes without saying that we don’t always of the same opinions and sometimes have rather controversial conversations. But if someone keeps me in check, then it’s my brother.
Interview by Andreas Kötter
Eintracht Frankfurt play host to unbeaten TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Friday. Click here to head to the Match Centre for exclusive pre-match content.