Bayern Munich’s revival in the second half of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season is largely due to the players respecting Hansi Flick more than they did former head coach Niko Kovac, according to Giovane Elber.
The reigning league champions endured a mixed start to the season and decided to sack Kovac in November after a 5-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt left them fourth in the standings.
Assistant coach Flick, who was also part of Germany’s setup as No.2 between 2006 and 2014, was parachuted into the caretaker role and is now the permanent head coach after turning the team’s campaign round.
With the Bundesliga returning on May 16, Bayern are currently four points clear of rivals Dortmund and Elber feels that the club’s title rivals missed the chance to capitalise during the Bavarians’ slump.
“Bayern started very irregularly and then they made the change [of manager],” Elber told Goal.
“Flick already knew the players from Bayern and the Germany national team and had the respect and admiration of everybody, so it was easy for him to reach the players again.
“With Niko Kovac, it seemed he couldn’t reach the players. He worked on a team and the team didn’t seem to obey his commands.”
“With the new manager the players didn’t have anyone to blame anymore. A bad game wasn’t the manager’s fault anymore, as was happening before. It would be the fault of the players.
“So the players were united and started playing well, because we’re talking about very good players. And now we’re back on top.
“Borussia Dortmund could have done better because they had the chance to accumulate more points during that poor period. But neither them or Leipzig took their chance and now it is difficult to take Bayern away [from the top].”
The Bundesliga has been postponed since February because of the coronavirus pandemic but will make its comeback on Saturday, with the Revierderby between Dortmund and Schalke kicking things off.
Elber believes the fixture has taken over as the Bundesliga’s most intriguing match, even more than the traditional heavyweight battles between Bayern and Dortmund.
“Bayern versus Gladbach was the biggest game – it used to be a match that made people get anxious and excited to watch,” Elber recalled.
“But then Gladbach started to fade, got relegated… now they’re getting back on track, fighting for the Champions League places.
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“But since I started playing in the Bundesliga, in 1994, the biggest rivalry is Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke. It’s a regional rivalry, you know?
“Bayern against Dortmund is nice, because people are always excited to watch it and the both teams usually are the favourites for the title.
“But emotion-wise [the biggest match] really is Borussia Dortmund vs Schalke. It’s thrilling.”