Niko Kovac

Where to next for Mauricio Pochettino?

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Following official word of Mauricio Pochettino being relieved of his duties as Tottenham Hotspur manager, we’ve already discussed how things got to this point and who is likely to replace Pochettino. Now it’s time to consider where the Argentine will work next.

[ MORE: Pochettino paid the price for Levy’s mistakes ]

The public perception — and perhaps honest truth — is that Pochettino faced nearly impossible odds to win trophies at Tottenham due to the financial limitations placed upon him by chairman Daniel Levy, therefore much of the outside world is likely to see Pochettino as still having loads of untapped potential as a manager.

“With the right resources, he could achieve absolutely anything,” the obvious line of thinking will go. Thus, he will almost certainly have his pick of any number of top jobs, depending on whether or not he would like to take a short break from employment and cash the first of many checks which will ultimately pay him more than $16 million to no longer manage Spurs.

[ MORE: Mourinho to replace Poch? ]

A few jobs which are likely to see the managerial post come available in the coming weeks and months, and appeal to a candidate of Pochettino’s caliber (in no particular order)…

  • Manchester United (Ole Gunnar Solskjaer) – Man United have severely underperformed in their first 12 games this season (nine points back of fourth place), leading to plenty of speculation that Solskjaer could be fired if the right replacement came available. United reportedly courted Pochettino after Jose Mourinho departed last season, but he remained loyal to Spurs.
  • Bayern Munich (Hans-Dieter Flick, interim) – Niko Kovac was fired earlier this month and the seven-time defending Bundesliga champs currently sit third, four points behind leaders Borussia Monchengladbach. Bayern is a squad mixed with veteran and youthful stars, a balance Pochettino might find attractive when considering both the long- and short-term prospects of his next employer.
  • Real Madrid (Zinedine Zidane) – Like United, the links to Madrid have been around for quite some time. While he’ll undoubtedly have far more to work with budget-wise in the Spanish capital, one thing to consider: if Pochettino found working with Levy a challenge, what might he call working for Florentino Perez?
  • Paris Saint-Germain (Thomas Tuchel) – PSG have to be considered anytime a high-profile manager comes available, because they’re not only willing to spend whatever it takes to get their man, but they change managers as frequently as anyone. Tuchel isn’t having the best of times (three losses from their first 13 games), though his side still sit eight points clear of the Ligue 1 pack. The league title is in the bag, but PSG’s owners have Champions League ambitions, and Pochettino is only five months removed from managing in that competition’s final.
  • Borussia Dortmund (Lucien Favre) – Dortmund currently sit sixth, though just two points back of second place. Favre’s side crumbled down the stretch when last season’s title was theirs to be lost. This is a job that’s probably only in play if Pochettino decides to take a brief sabbatical, as Dortmund are unlikely to have an itchy trigger finger.
  • Napoli (Carlo Ancelotti) – Napoli spent wildly (by their standards) this summer. Through 12 games all it’s gotten them is seventh place, and Ancelotti has come under fire of late. Much like Spurs when he took that job, Napoli represents a club with plenty of potential — and romantic dreams — which could very well appeal to Pochettino.

Bayern Munich part ways with Niko Kovac

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Niko Kovac is no longer at the helm of Bayern Munich.

The German club announced on Sunday that it has parted ways with the Croatian a day after the defending champions suffered a humbling 5-1 loss to his former club, Eintracht Frankfurt, on Saturday.

The 48-year-old called his players in for training at Sabener Strasse on Sunday, but was dismissed of his duties by the club’s board shortly after.

A statement released by the club followed:

“The performance of our team in recent weeks and the results have shown us that there was need for action,” Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “Uli Hoeness, Hasan Salihamidžić and I have had an open and serious conversation with Niko on this basis on Sunday, with the consensual result that Niko is no longer coach of FC Bayern.”

“We all regret this development,” he added. “I would like to thank Niko Kovac on behalf of FC Bayern for his work, especially for winning the Doubles last season.”

Kovac, 48, had been in charge since July 2018 and led Bayern to a league-and-cup double last season. In 65 matches in charge of the club, the former midfielder lost only 20, although Saturday’s loss was Bayern’s worst in the Bundesliga in 10 years.

“I think this is the right decision for the club at the moment,” Kovac said in the statement. “The results, and also the way we last played, made me come to that decision.”

“My brother Robert and I thank Bayern for the last one and a half years,” he added. “During this time, our team has won the championship, the DFB Cup and the Supercup. It was a good time. I wish the club and the team all the best.”

The Croatian leaves Bayern, who have only lost two games in 10 league matches, fourth in the table, four points of adrift of league leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

Kovac’s assistant, Hansi Flick, is set to take over as interim manager.

UCL preview: Kovac praises Spurs; Pep’s UCL ‘seduction’

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Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino may be in a tough spot right now, but the boss of Tuesday’s opposition in the Champions League sees him as one of the world’s great successes.

Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac says Pochettino and his Spurs are a tale worth telling.

[ MORE: Arsenal draws Man Utd ]

“In my opinion Tottenham have a very positive light in European football, they are now able to compete with the very big teams, even if it didn’t look that way seven or eight years ago,” said the manager of the Bundesliga leaders. “They have continuity, he was given time and he has done a great job and that is an example for others.”

In UCL play, Spurs are coming off a draw in Greece against Olympiacos while Bayern handled Red Star Belgrade and has a chance to put something close to a chokehold on the group with an away with in North London.

Spurs got a gutty win over Southampton at the weekend and will hope they’ve turned the corner. Pochettino feels his men need to keep battling through non-ideal form.

“You need to know that there will be periods when you are not as good as you expect,” he said, via Football.London. “The most important is the belief and spirit. Of course many things can affect that day by day at the club, or in the team, but it’s to have a clear idea of who you are and where you are. Where we want to arrive is the most important and stick with that, working hard.”

The other PL club in action on Tuesday is Manchester City, and Pep Guardiola is hoping he can get his fans to buy into the tournament as they host Dinamo Zagreb.

Guardiola said he wants a fired up Etihad Stadium, but admits that his fans don’t value the UCL as much as the PL.

“I know for the fans it’s the Premier League that’s most exciting,” Guardiola said. “We know that as a club, we’ve done polls, and the people prefer by far to win the Premier League than the Champions League. I know how special it is. But this competition is nice too. They have to live it as a dream. Nine times in a row we’ve been in it and that is top.

“It’s a reality of our club, we have to accept it. We have to seduce them so they realize how it’s important. I think it’s because in the past, a whole generation, they were not there in this competition at our club, Liverpool and United – with their trophies, they are used to it.”

UCL Tuesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs
Atalanta v. Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid v. Club Brugge

3 p.m. ET
Man City v. Dinamo Zagreb
Red Star Belgrade v. Olympiacos
Lokomotiv Moscow v. Atletico Madrid
Tottenham Hotspur v. Bayern Munich
Juventus v. Bayer Leverkusen
Galatasaray v. Paris Saint-Germain

Ambitious Leipzig bullish with new coach before Bayern clash

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BERLIN (AP) Fast-rising Leipzig is betting on new coach Julian Nagelsmann to provide the edge it needs to finally end Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga hegemony.

The sides meet in the league on Saturday.

Leipzig, which has made no secret of its title ambitions, has been making steady progress since its formation in 2009, rising through the lower leagues, clinching Bundesliga promotion in 2016, and qualifying for the Champions League.

[ MORE: Poch has Spurs “re-focusing” ]

Former coach of the year Nagelsmann is supposed to build on last season’s third-place finish, and has made a good start.

The 32-year-old Nagelsmann is the only remaining coach in Germany with a perfect record – three wins from three in the league and progress secured to the second round of the German Cup.

Protests away from home – at Union Berlin and Borussia Monchengladbach – have had little effect on the players. Leipzig is unpopular among rival fans due to its fast ascent financed since its foundation by energy drinks manufacturer Red Bull.

Nagelsmann is used to the animosity. Former club Hoffenheim was also unpopular due to its financial reliance on billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp, though not to the level of Leipzig, which has became a favored target for rival fans.

Nagelsmann has compared himself to Jurgen Klopp, saying it took three years for Klopp to win titles at Borussia Dortmund and then Liverpool.

[ MORE: USMNT’s first year with Berhalter ]

His goal is to do the same at Leipzig.

“Three years would be fine for all of us or even sooner. Four years would also be OK. Anyway, it would be great to do it and that’s my aim,” Nagelsmann said.

He can approach Saturday’s game relaxed knowing he has been given time to settle in at Leipzig.

“He doesn’t need to be nervous when there are one or two defeats,” Leipzig chairman Oliver Mintzlaff said before the season. “We know that it’s a new start and that there’s a certain settling in period as things adjust.”

Bayern counterpart Niko Kovac has had no such luxury, being under constant pressure since he took over the Bavarian powerhouse last year. Kovac had to dampen speculation over his future in the run up to Bayern’s 3-0 win over Leipzig in the German Cup final, and will be expected to do better after winning the league and cup double last season.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has been openly critical of Kovac at times, says he welcomes the competition that Leipzig has brought to the league.

“We’re always interested in competition for Bayern, because competition provides football with excitement and emotion. Leipzig is definitely one of the clubs that will establish itself at the top of the Bundesliga,” Rummenigge told Kicker magazine on Thursday.

But not just yet, he hopes.

“Our goal is to take over the league-lead with a win,” Rummenigge said.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Kovac: ‘We are confident’ Bayern can sign Sane

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Bayern Munich has officially acquired three players this offseason, including a pair of defenders, but a certain Manchester City winger would be the star Bayern is looking for.

After weeks of publicly admitting that Bayern is trying to sign Leroy Sane, in an interview with German TV station ZDF, Bayern coach Niko Kovac said that he and the club were confident they’d sign Sane this summer.

[READ: Is Arsenal gambling with big summer spending spree?]

“Bayern wants to sign a high-caliber (player),” Kovach said. “We want Leroy. He is a great footballer, he has already proven in England and the national team. Our club and the club management are very committed. It is not easy, otherwise it would already be through. But I am very confident and I expect that we can get him.”

With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery gone – along with James Rodriguez, Bayern is in big need of a speedy, dynamic and talented attacking midfielder, and Leroy Sane fits the bill. German National Team manager Joachim Low admitted that his aging side was missing a player like Sane in the squad during the disastrous 2018 World Cup in Russia – even though he had struggled for the national team in the past – and Sane’s continued to perform above and beyond for Manchester City.

Man City has thus far rebuffed the public speculation and pressure from Bayern for Sane’s departure, but everyone has a price and one wonders what Man City would do if they decide it’s best for Sane to move on.

With two weeks left in the Premier League’s summer transfer window, though, there’s not a lot of time for Man City to move into action to add a player if Sane departs. Of course, Man City has plenty of depth in those positions. Oleksandr Zinchenko can step in on the left side and there’s still Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling able to play out wide. However, with Man City competing on four fronts again this season, it will want some more depth in the squad.