After Claude Puel at the start of the month and Laurent Batlles a few hours earlier, we know the name of the third Ligue 1 coach fired this season: Niko Kovač. A small earthquake on the scale of the Monegasque rock, as the Croatian technician had managed to forge a solid reputation in France in the space of eighteen months, his overall results being far from being a joke. But what could have motivated the leaders of Monaco to take such an unexpected decision?
On July 6, 2020, Oleg Petrov – president of AS Monaco – inducted in a press conference his new sports director, the Englishman Paul Mitchell, and entrusted him with a mission: to give meaning to a project that was running out of steam. History to show that he did not come to make up the figuration, the Briton simply takes thirteen days to entrust the keys of the truck to Niko Kovač, a rigorous technician advocating an offensive game, accompanied by an intense pressing. What was sorely lacking in ASM at that time. A year and a half later, the Croatian has just been fired, halfway through his contract, to everyone’s surprise. Information from The team are clear: the trio Dimitri Rybolovlev, Oleg Petrov and Paul Mitchell, at the head of the Monegasque ship, believe that Kovač is no longer the man for the job. The daily advance a lack of coherence on the tactical level, an identity of play which is disintegrating and a management of the young people at the limit of the reasonable. A finding that may be surprising if we consider that the coach with an impeccable wick is at the origin of the advent of several players such as Aurélien Tchouaméni, Sofiane Diop or Youssouf Fofana. Rather calm and charismatic on his bench during matches, the Berlin native was another man in training, where screams and more than intensive exercises were often the order of the day. Which ended up annoying.
The gala matches played tricks on him
From an accounting point of view, since this is often what matters, AS Monaco has had a rather average season in the top flight. Sixth, four points off the podium, the Monegasques are not left behind after a difficult start and have even gone up the slope recently, with three victories in the last four games played in Ligue 1. But while the ASM aims to find the Champions League as quickly as possible, the blessed in a crucial area: the big games. In mid-season, the results weigh heavily. Monaco was put to sleep at home by OM (0-2), did not exist in Lyon (2-0), conceded a draw against Lille (2-2) and was recently extinguished by Kylian Mbappé at Parc des Princes (2-0). On the continental scene, after failing to pass the C1 dam against Shakhtar Donetsk at the end of the summer, the Monegasques validated their ticket for the knockout stages of the Europa League by finishing first in their group. But this is not yet enough, and in the upper echelons of the club, the watchword is clear: we do not have time to wait. Over the last 38 months, Monaco has therefore made five managerial changes, a sign of a lack of stability.
Mission not so successful
If his stint at Bayern Munich between April 2018 and November 2019 was not a real success – despite the titles in the Bundesliga and the German Cup – Kovač, on the other hand, does not have to be ashamed of his record in Monaco. During his tenure of almost eighteen months in the Principality, the 50-year-old manager can boast of having won over a championship, of having achieved consensus with his French counterparts (it was not uncommon to hear French coaches praise his character and his qualities) and marked his own until the final of the Coupe de France last May, where PSG was logically superior to him (2-0). The end of the 2020-2021 financial year is also to its credit, the ASM finishing in third place in the championship, after having conceded only two defeats between the 16e and the 38e daytime. His Monaco, at times unstoppable, was then considered one of the best teams in the elite. “It’s true that we’ve scored a lot of goals so far, but compared to the others, we’ve also conceded a lot. That’s the difference: the experience. We still need time ” , he said modestly in our columns last April. His time, unfortunately for him, is now up and his words in the 185 of So walk now take on their full meaning: “When you get fired, you have to ask yourself what you can learn and retain from this experience, in your life and in your profession, before leaving. This is valid in sport as in the rest. Either way, football is a mirror of real life. ” And Monaco has just given him a good deal to think about in front of the ice.
By Alexandre Lejeune