Eintracht Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac finds himself in a strange situation this weekend.
The crafty Croatian will take charge of Eintracht Frankfurt for the last time on Saturday as they face his next employers – Bayern Munich – in the final of the DFB Cup.
Apart from offering Kovac his first chance of silverware as a manager, the match poses an interesting challenge for the 46-year old as he prepares to take on the biggest job in German football.
Win, and apart from the temporary discomfort of upsetting his soon-to-be bosses, he will go a long way to quieting the rumbles of discontent among Bayern fans about the relative inexperience and tactical capability of their future coach.
Lose, however, and it will only reinforce the perception among supporters that perhaps the Bavarians should have gone for a bigger name.
Being a former Bayern player, and amassing a decent if unspectacular record during his 26 months in charge of Frankfurt, holds no sway with the demanding fans of the German giants, it would appear.
Indeed, his predecessor in the Bayern hotseat has already gone out of his way to pre-empt the storm clouds gathering in Munich, telling fans and reporters that Kovac will be a success, but may need some time to settle at the Allianz Arena.
A kind gesture, no doubt, but that does not mean Heynckes will be generous enough to demand anything but a win from his charges at Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
Saturday’s match also marks the end of Heynckes’ third spell in charge of the German giants. The 72-year returned to the fray late last year to reinvigorate a lethargic Bayern – and although he helped to secure a record sixth consecutive Bundesliga title, his swansong will also be marked with a tinge of disappointment given the team’s depressing semi-final exit in the Champions League.
A second treble would have been a fitting finale for the club legend. Still, a league and cup double is not to be sniffed at.
Come what may Saturday evening, Bayern fans will quickly turn their attention – post World Cup – to next season.
Given the quality in their squad, they are sure to be eager for more European glory and for the time being remain unconvinced that Kovac is the man to deliver sooner, rather than later.
The Bayern management are not silly, and must have considered this when they were choosing Heynckes’ successor. While they may be willing to give Kovac time, the fans and the press may not.
A good start for Kovac is therefore imperative, but for Karl Heinz Rummenigge and co., that good start can wait until August.