Hopeful of maintaining their hegemony at home and abroad, Bayern Munich have been busy planning a family reunion at the Olympiastadion, buying Croat international siblings Niko and Robert Kovac from Hamburg and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.
The original plan was for midfielder Niko and defender Robert to see out their existing contracts and join Bayern for free in the summer of 2002. But anxious not to allow their stars to walk away without due recompense, Hamburg and Leverkusen were reluctantly forced to negotiate an immediate sale.
Bayern will pay Leverkusen œ5.6million for Robert and Hamburg œ3.6m for Niko. “We had no choice but to sell straight away,” declared Hamburg coach Frank Pagelsdorf.
“We were in a situation where we had to see the business side of things. Of course, I’m disappointed to see Niko go. He is the most attack-conscious defensive midfielder in the Bundesliga. Bayern have a very, very good buy.”
Obviously, Bayern coach Ottmar Hitzfeld agrees. Nothing gladdens his heart more than a player who can fulfil several roles, and 29-year-old Niko is just that; he can operate as a defensive or attacking midfielder, on the right or left, and even has experience in central defence.
No matter that Bayern already boast a surfeit of midfield talent, Niko’s versatility, tactical nous and high workrate should ensure him plenty of playing time in Bavaria.
Club Bayern Munich (Ger)
Born October 15, 1971, in Berlin
Previous clubs Rapide Wedding, Hertha Zehlendorf, Hertha Berlin, Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg
International debut December 1996, v Czech Republic
International caps 15 (1 goal)