Bayern coach Niko Kovac gives instructions during the German Bundesliga soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Hannover 96 in Munich, Germany, May 4, 2019. (MATTHIAS SCHRADER / AP PHOTO)
BERLIN - While many German football fans are happy about the most exciting Bundesliga title race since 2009, Bayern Munich seem stuck in a crucial debate about the status of their coach.
The future of Niko Kovac is said to be more uncertain than ever, despite the possibility of winning both the Bundesliga and the German Cup over the next two weeks.
With only one Bundesliga matchday to go, Bayern are two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, and take on RB Leipzig in the Cup final on May 25
With only one Bundesliga matchday to go, Bayern are two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, and take on RB Leipzig in the Cup final on May 25.
Fans, pundits and media fear the uncertainty over Kovac's future could affect the Bavarians' chances of success. Media reports speak about Kovac departing after the 2018/2019 season despite having a contract until 2021. Rumors talk about Bayern's interest in Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick and Paris Saint Germain's Thomas Tuchel.
The Bavarian club has been under fire since its leaders such as chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president Uli Hoeness and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic refused to confirm the 47-year-old as next season's coach.
After Bayern's goalless draw in the penultimate league game against Leipzig, media and pundits opened fire on Bayern's bosses.
The news magazine Focus said Kovac deserves to be treated better. Die Welt headlined: "Bayern's policy regarding Kovac is dishonorable," while the tabloid Bild demanded: "Start telling him the truth!" Sport1 and several other commentators suggested Kovac should resign after the season regardless of any possible success, while football magazine Kicker said Rummenigge is choosing the wrong time to question Kovac.
Former Bayern and Liverpool midfielder Dietmar Hamann accused the club's leaders of presiding over a failed recruitment policy. "They tried to play with two 35-year-olds on the wings and expected to win the Champions League. Bayern's current squad hasn't got the same quality as this season's Champions League semifinalists. That wasn't Kovac's mistake," Hamann said, adding that the coach is doing an admirable job in a difficult situation.
Bayern midfielder Thiago Alcantara, left, jumps for a header with Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Leipzig and Bayern Munich at the Red Bull Arena stadium in Leipzig, Germany, May 11, 2019. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP PHOTO)
Former Dortmund and Cologne coach Peter Stoeger said that if Bayern are intending to make things really hard for Kovac, "they are doing a great job."
Reports speak about growing dissatisfaction among Bayern's leaders regarding the team's progress and performance on the continental stage, after an early exit in the Champions League round of 16, with suggestions that Kovac has lost the dressing room and rumors of controversial discussions among players.
The club's leaders are said to mistrust Kovac's ability to successfully restructure the team, with several of Bayern's elder statesmen expected to leave after this season.
"We played without courage against Liverpool. It is the coach who decides the team's strategy, and the team follows his advice," Salihamidzic said. The 42-year-old former Bayern midfielder refused to back Kovac when talking about the former Croatian national coach's future. "We will see," he commented.
Bayern Munich's Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez (right) speaks with Bayern Munich's Bosnian Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic during the German first division Bundesliga football match Nuremberg v FC Bayern Munich on April 28, 2019 in Nuremberg, southern Germany. (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)
READ MORE: Bayern's internal battle for Kovac's future
Rummenigge complained about demands for a commitment regarding his coach. "We all have to deliver when working for Bayern," the Euro 1980 winner emphasized, adding that convenience doesn't lead to success.
Meanwhile, Kovac claims not to be affected by the debate that his side faces a "final" when meeting Eintracht Frankfurt in their final league game. A draw would secure their seventh consecutive national title as Bayern enjoy a two-point lead over Dortmund and have a goal difference of +17 over their rivals.
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