After a rocky start to the season, Bayern Munich have finally sacked Niko Kovac.
The Croatian coach and former Bayern player won a domestic double in his first season, but his sophomore campaign was going considerably less smoothly. Bayern are currently fourth in the Bundesliga, four points behind league leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.
And whilst that’s hardly a massive disaster, the fact that Bayern have repeatedly dropped silly points this season – including their recent 5-1 defeat in Frankfurt – meant that Kovac had to go.
But now the question becomes: who replaces him? We’ve had a look at the main candidates for the biggest job in Germany to see if they’re a dream option, something realistic or a true wildcard.
Dream: Ralf Rangnick
The most exciting team in the Bundesliga over the last few years hasn’t been Bayern Munich, but RB Leipzig. The new club emerged from nowhere, playing a ferocious style of football, and became a recognisable force in Germany’s top division. The man responsible for that rise is Ralf Rangnick who has been sporting director at the club since 2012 and had two successful spells as coach when the club needed him to step up.
Rangnick’s ability to direct the club philosophy without directly coaching the side speaks to his ability to transmit an overall vision, and that he was able to seamlessly transition to coaching the side also bodes well for his ability to adapt to new challenges.
Rangnick masterminded the philosophy of direct attacking play, ferocious pressing and rapid passing that facilitated the ascensions of Naby Keita and Timo Werner to the world stage.
He made Emil Forsberg a relevant force and thanks to his philosophy, Lukas Klostermann and Marcel Halstenberg have become Germany internationals. His eye for talent is incredible: one of the first signings RB Salzburg made with him as sporting director (he ran both Salzburg and Leipzig from 2012-2015) was a certain Sadio Mané.
There’s no doubt that Rangnick would be a dream candidate for Bayern. He’s old enough and has an impressive enough CV that the superstars would respect him and his philosophy. Said philosophy would supercharge a Bayern squad that is in desperate need of some philosophical direction. Moreover his past as a sporting director means it would be easy for him to find and groom a successor, allowing him to step up into a similar sporting director role soon and ensure Bayern can have the kind of consistency that has brought RB Leipzig such joy.
In focus: The candidates for the Bayern Munich job
Realistic: José Mourinho
Ultimately, Rangnick is a dream because, well, RB Leipzig have never shown a weakness to the financial power of larger sides. With that in mind, Bayern may look to a less bold approach and simply do what they did when replacing Pep Guardiola: get the biggest name around.
Back then that meant getting Carlo Ancelotti. Now? That means José Mourinho. The Portuguese coach has been out of work since being sacked by Manchester United at the end of last year and is being linked with every big job going. Rumour has it he has turned down smaller jobs (such as Lyon) because he’s expecting a big club to make an offer.
Could that be Bayern? Well Mourinho is a proven winner who works well with veterans. Moreover, he likes teams that have a solid defence and with their tremendous outlay on defenders this summer there’s no doubt that Bayern would be well-placed to play a Mourinho-style of game should they want to.
Of course, Mourinho only offers a two-year-period of joy before it all collapses, but with his burning motivation to out-do Guardiola and Bayern’s hunger to win the Champions League (something the Catalan could never do when coaching in Bavaria) one can see how the two sides could come together for a brief but spectacular union.
“I can imagine Mourinho in Germany,” Bayern club legend Bastian Schweinsteiger has said. “I remember he was always asking me about Bayern and the Bundesliga. He really knew every single player, even from the smaller teams. He was also learning German.”
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Wildcard: Arsene Wenger
It’s not necessarily Bayern’s style but why not think outside the box when appointing the next coach? Arsene Wenger is one of football’s great idealists, a pure romantic. Since leaving Arsenal he’s often spoken that he does have a desire to get involved with coaching another side, but is waiting for the right chance.
Why not Bayern? The club is stocked with talent so Wenger’s confidence-boosting approach to management would have an immediate effect. He’d let the superstars manage themselves, which is what superstars like to do. You can just imagine him saying that Thomas Muller is amazing after every game, which will probably motivate Muller to be amazing.
Wenger won’t burden the players with too much tactical information, but will look to improve them technically. He’ll get a chance to try again with Serge Gnabry, and he’ll finally have the financial muscle to compete for elite talents on the world stage.
Paul Pogba to Bayern? If Wenger is the one courting the Frenchman, you’d be foolish to rule it out. Of course it’s a huge risk, as Wenger hasn’t looked like an elite coach since 2006, but why not take the risk?
Squawka Suggests: Erik ten Hag
What Bayern need is a new direction. They need a philosophy. Yes, Rangnick could provide that, but how willing would RB Leipzig be to negotiate? And Rangnick has obviously shown a predilection for being a sporting director and letting someone else do the job. Julian Nagelsmann is obviously brilliant, but even Bayern would know he’s still developing as a coach.
Why not look abroad for someone with an impeccable vision and philosophy? Someone who could bring the focus Rangnick does, but directly as a coach? Ajax’s Erik ten Hag masterminded the Dutch side’s return to the Champions League last season and they were absolutely sublime throughout. They outplayed Bayern, Real Madrid, Juventus and even Spurs – though they were undone by long balls against the English side.
Ten Hag made fantastic use of the immense individual talent available to him and helped turn Frenkie de Jong into one of the world’s best midfielders and allowed Matthijs de Ligt to mature into a fantastic leader at just 19 years of age. Since losing the pair of them he’s also shown the tactical flexibility to adjust his system and keep Ajax on the winning path anyway.
Ten Hag distances himself from Bayern job
It would definitely cost a lot to buy him out of his contract at Ajax; but it would be so worth it. Imagine what Ten Hag could do with a midfield containing Thiago Alcantara and Corentin Tolisso? He had David Neres dominating defences, just what would he able to do with Serge Gnabry? And then there’s Robert Lewandowski.
As the final bonus; Ten Hag has already coached at Bayern. He managed the B-team (Bayern Munich II) for the first two seasons of Guardiola’s reign in Bavaria. So he would be both a call-back to a more dominant era but also a German-speaking forward-thinking coach of the future that could help Bayern become the best team in the world.
However, the Dutchman is adamant that he has no interest in leaving Ajax midway through this season. So if Bayern want the 49-year-old, they will have to wait. Ten Hag represents the right long-term choice, but short-term aims could mean the Bavarians are forced to look elsewhere to get their season back on track.