On Tuesday afternoon this week, AS Monaco’s new coach Niko Kovac made his first official press appearance in Hotel Fairmont. With a smile on his face, the former Bayern Munich coach spoke of his arrival and ambitions for the club. After two disappointing seasons, the Croatian is determined to reinstate the club’s place at the top of Ligue 1.

Sporting black suits, the three men exuded confidence as they made their way into the Fairmont Hotel. Following Oleg Petrov (who, for the first time, spoke to journalists in French) and Paul Mitchell, Niko Kovac appeared from the wings at the luxurious Fairmont Hotel late on Tuesday for his first press conference, just two weeks after Paul Mitchell’s first appearance launching AS Monaco’s new project. Events have a way of developing quickly on the Rock, as Robert Moreno’s dismissal just a few weeks after the Englishman took over as sporting director goes to show. A swift change in direction for the coaching position, it led ASM to choose Niko Kovac, 48, a former Croatian international midfielder who managed Eintracht Frankfurt (2016-2018) and Bayern Munich (2018-2019). “I have always heard people speak of Niko positively,” said Monaco’s relatively new sports director. “I had never met him before, but we both worked in Germany. He’s the ideal candidate, who perfectly embodies what the club stands for today.”

I play an intensive style of football. It requires being in good shape to be able to practice it

Although Oleg Petrov is now cautious about mentioning the Champions League, Niko Kovac did not fail to display his ambition in this first press conference, which he kicked off in almost perfect French. “Hello. I just wanted to say I’m sorry, because I don’t speak French yet, but I hope to learn quickly. […] As for my choice, the reason is simple: AS Monaco is a great club with a great history. It is true that the last few seasons have perhaps not lived up to the team’s objectives, but we will work hard to bring AS Monaco back to the top of Ligue 1.”  

Although Oleg Petrov is now cautious about mentioning the Champions League, Niko Kovac did not fail to display his ambition in this first press conference, which he kicked off in almost perfect French. “Hello. I just wanted to say I’m sorry, because I don’t speak French yet, but I hope to learn quickly. […] As for my choice, the reason is simple: AS Monaco is a great club with a great history. It is true that the last few seasons have perhaps not lived up to the team’s objectives, but we will work hard to bring AS Monaco back to the top of Ligue 1.”  

Despite Petrov’s reluctance to speak about the club’s ambitions for the Ligue, it did not prevent Kovac from explaining his principles, which he learnt during his three seasons in Germany. “Each coach has his own philosophy, his own way of thinking about football. For now, I attach a lot of importance to having an overarching view of this team. After this first phase, I will be able to choose the best tactics and the best state of play that suits the team. My experience as a player helps me a lot as a coach today. I have been fortunate to work with great coaches and that is the experience that I have been able to use as a coach and as a manager. These are the tools that I use and that I try to draw on as much as possible. I play an intensive style of football. It requires being in good shape to be able to practice it. I have had the opportunity to participate in a lot of preseasons in my career and I know that it is important to be in good shape physically, of course, but also technically and tactically.”  

It’s set to be a transitional period in terms of game style with a greater focus on offence, in line with Paul Mitchell’s preferred style as opposed to Robert Moreno’s, who placed a heavier emphasis on possession.

Bundesliga recruitment?

“I followed the French league. French football is renowned, the national team is twice world champions and many great players have gone through this selection and AS Monaco.” A connoisseur of Ligue 1, Niko Kovac was cautious about issues with the transfer market, although he made it clear that he had no problem working with young players rather than experienced ones with glossy CVs. “The important thing is to have a good mix. AS Monaco is famous for its training centre and its Academy, which has developed many great players. The academy players here work well and make the older ones work. In the end, the benefits are felt –  it’s really a good thing.”  

While the new ASM strongman explained that he still needed time “to have an overview of the squad and its players”, the club’s recruitment could pick up the pace. And given the German experience of Kovac and Mitchell, AS Monaco’s transfers could well target the Bundesliga, a league that is brimming with talent that could strengthen the Monegasque squad this summer. While some rumours, more or less serious, are already echoing of Monaco’s interest in German international Mario Götze, who has been ripe for the taking since his departure from Borussia Dortmund, other Bundesliga-marked paths could soon appear in the news in the coming weeks.  

“Oleg and Paul told me that we will do enough to get a strong team and I believe in them. So that was the reason why I decided to come to Monaco. Because I trust Oleg, I trust Paul. And, last but not least, I want to say thank you, thanks for the trust of the president Dmitry Rybolovlev. It’s up to me to pay back the trust they gave me. I want to pay back as fast as possible. I am here to work hard with the team to reach the highest level we can reach.”  

Evidently this trust is mutual as the club has signed their new coach for three seasons, one of which being optional. Is this finally a sign of a stable and successful future, after four different coaches in 18 months? The answer will be apparent in mere weeks.