Berlin: Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac appears to have avoided the sack after his side secured a domestic double with victory over RB Leipzig in the German Cup final on Saturday.
Kovac, 47, has fought off relentless criticism in his first year in charge of Bayern, as well as rumours that he would face the sack even if the club did win the league and cup double.
Yet Bayern’s cup victory appeared to end speculation over the Croatian’s future, as home fans chanted his name before kick-off and after the final whistle.
“We never questioned whether he would be here next season, that was never a topic for us,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the game, echoing comments he had made at an event in Berlin the day before.
“At the end of the day, trophies are what is expected at Bayern.”
Rummenigge, who was considered one of Kovac’s strongest boardroom critics this season, said that it had been a “curious” season, but that the team had played “amazingly” on Saturday.
The victory appears to be a final vindication for the under-fire coach, coming after the Bavarians won the Bundesliga title last Saturday, having clawed back a nine-point deficit from rivals Borussia Dortmund.
“I had to stay calm, I know how difficult the job is. Trophies are important,” Kovac said.
He picked up a second trophy in a week on Saturday, as Bayern beat Leipzig 3-0 at the Berlin Olympic Stadium.
Kovac addressed the fans directly with a loudspeaker after the game, thanking them for their support. “I thanked the fans, without them, we would not have made it out of the hole we were in earlier in the season,” he told ARD.
Kovac is now the first coach to have won the German Cup in two successive seasons with two different clubs, having beaten Bayern with Eintracht Frankfurt in last year’s final.
“Last year, I cried because I was leaving the club. This year it was a bit less emotional but the emotions are always there,” he said.