Bayern faces future coach as Niko Kovac's Frankfurt visits
By CIARAN FAHEY
MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich will get a good look at its next coach when Eintracht Frankfurt visits for a rehearsal of the German Cup final on Saturday.
But Niko Kovac would rather not be the center of attention.
Kovac's switch has soured relations between the clubs - even if both now insist that bygones are bygones.
"It's not an issue," Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said after meeting Frankfurt counterpart Fredi Bobic for clear-the-air talks in Frankfurt.
Kovac is taking over on a three-year deal from the retiring Jupp Heynckes at the end of the season. He and Salihamidzic are friends after playing two seasons together at Bayern from 2001.
In comments that Bayern president Uli Hoeness had labeled as "outrageous," Bobic had been scathing in his criticism after Bayern announced Kovac's signing on April 13, saying it was "unprofessional and lacking in respect," and that the timing was detrimental at the decisive stage of the season.
Frankfurt has lost both league games since. Another loss in Munich on Saturday will likely end any lingering Champions League qualification hopes.
Kovac has faced criticism for leaving Frankfurt after previously saying he had a contract through 2019 with the club, and he denied having been in contact for weeks with his future club.
"You can believe me or not," Kovac told Kicker magazine.
The Frankfurt coach said he had a clause inserted into his contract that allowed him leave for a team playing in the Champions League.
"I have high expectations of myself. I was convinced that together with the team, I could be interesting for teams in this area. That's why I had the clause put in at the time," Kovac said of his contract extension in December 2016.
Kovac will face Bayern again for the German Cup final on May 19, when he will hope to go one better after losing to Borussia Dortmund in last year's decider.
"Dreams are the beginning of reality. Everything starts in the head," Kovac said, acknowledging Frankfurt will need a major upset - "the desire and belief in the impossible" - to deny Bayern another double.
Bayern, which wrapped up the league with five games to go, needs to overturn a 2-1 home loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals to maintain its hopes of a treble.
Kovac will face a tough challenge to succeed at Bayern, where he will be in charge of established superstars for the first time. At Frankfurt, the 46-year-old Croat was mostly dealing with young and inexperienced players, eager to learn and enthusiastic about working for the team.
Kovac, who formerly coached Croatia, was relatively inexperienced when he took over in Frankfurt in March 2016, but he saved the team from relegation and then led it to mid-table and the German Cup final in his second season. This season is his best yet.
Bayern no doubt noted how Kovac forged a strong unit from a panel of 17 nationalities based on defensive stability and team commitment - qualities lacking in Bayern's loss to Madrid on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Bayern will hope to get back into goal-scoring form in preparation for Tuesday's second leg in Madrid. But Kovac and his current side are still fighting for their objectives.
Updated April 26, 2018