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The 5 contenders to replace Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich

The 5 contenders to replace Niko Kovac at Bayern Munich

Inevitably, the Kovac era has come to an abrupt end. Who do Bayern turn to now?

DESPITE a domestic double in his first season in charge, Niko Kovac was never able to get comfortable as Bayern Munich manager. The Croat coach – whose only previous experience in club football came via a two-year stint with Eintracht Frankfurt – found his position constantly in question at the Allianz Arena and, in truth, often appeared out of his depth.

The axe finally fell after Bayern’s humiliating 5-1 defeat at the hands of Kovac’s former club last weekend, with the manager stepping down by mutual consent the official line.

Bayern are reportedly drawing up a shortlist of desired replacements – on which Jose Mourinho’s name does not appear – and the next man in will be tasked with restoring the Bavarian giants, who have slipped to fourth in the table, to their customary position atop the Bundesliga.

Here, we run the rule over five potential candidates for the Bayern job.

Erik ten Hag

Ajax manager Ten Hag has become one of the most coveted coaches in Europe for the way he steered the Amsterdam side to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, in addition to ending the club’s five-year Eredivisie drought and nine-year wait for a KNVB Cup triumph. The 49-year-old Dutchman espouses a playing style that would be appreciated in Munich, having built a thrilling young side at Ajax distinguishable by a fluid 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape, slick and inventive in possession.

Indeed, Ten Hag has history with Bayern, having served as boss of the club’s second string between 2013 and 2015, where he studied at the feet of Pep Guardiola. Ten Hag’s brand of positional play and regular usage of a false nine at the Amsterdam Arena bear the hallmark of the influential Catalan coach. Ten Hag may not have the vast elite-level experience of many of his rivals for the position, but he would represent an ambitious long-term appointment for Bayern and a return to a kind of stylistic aspiration lacking since Guardiola’s departure.

Massimiliano Allegri

One of the most respected and successful managers in the world – and, crucially, available – Allegri’s name will figure highly in the running for any vacant top-level post until he eventually commits to his next challenge. The 52-year-old Italian is currently on a well-deserved sabbatical following five success-laden years in charge of Juventus, for whom he delivered five successive Scudetti, four Coppas Italia and was twice a Champions League runner-up.

Pedigree and pragmatism – that’s what Allegri offers. He is not as stylish a tactician as Ten Hag, but he is a winner. And that isn’t to suggest the former AC Milan boss is incapable of producing eye-catching football – his Juve side were involved in more than their share of thrilling classics – it’s just he considers style to be of far less concern than substance. As attractive an option as Allegri is, though, Bayern will be reluctant to appoint someone who is not a fluent German speaker after Carlo Ancelotti’s struggles in the role.

Mauricio Pochettino

Any misgivings over the language barrier might be put to one side for a coach who ticks all the other boxes for Bayern, however. Pochettino, at 47, is the youngest manager on this list. In his six seasons with Tottenham, the Argentinian has built up a track record of overachievement versus a restricted budget, an attractive brand of football and the ability to implement a long-term vision.

The Spurs boss is believed to be someone who has long been admired within the Bayern hierarchy. And Tottenham’s stumbling form in 2019 is increasingly giving the impression that it might be time for the former Southampton manager to seek a fresh challenge. The cost of freeing Pochettino from his Tottenham contract is likely to prove prohibitive at this stage, though.

Ralf Rangnick

Rangnick is the frontrunner. Bayern considered turning to the 61-year-old veteran when Kovac’s position was being reviewed over the summer, and once again his package of relative success, deep experience in German football and tactical mastery will appeal. Widely regarded as one of the most innovative tacticians of the last three decades in German football, Rangnick has had spells in charge of Stuttgart, Hannover, Schalke, Hoffenheim and, most recently, RB Leipzig.

Bayern’s route to appointing Rangnick is complicated by the fact he is currently serving as the head of sport and development for Red Bull, overseeing the energy-drink company’s stable of football clubs.  

Arsene Wenger

Surely the neutral’s pick. As far as potential short-term appointments go, Wenger at Bayern would be box office. Now 70 years old, the man who built the modern Arsenal during his 22 years at the helm in north London will not be looking for another career-defining project. But Wenger insists he is still open to offers, not yet ready to hang up his ludicrously long touchline jacket just yet.

Wenger has the kind of experience and standing in the game that commands immediate respect, and he is arguably more devoted to playing “the right way” than any manager of the last 30 years. What’s more, born in Strasbourg, the French city which borders Germany, Wenger is a fluent German speaker.







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Ryan Baldi
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