Bayern Munich must be patient with Niko Kovac as he finds his feet, according to former player Giovane Elber, as the club continues to adapt to life after Jupp Heynckes.
The Bundesliga champions currently lie third in the league table behind Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach in Kovac’s first season, with the former Frankfurt manager still working out the kinks of his squad.
Renewed criticism has been mounted following a 1-1 draw with Freiburg but Elber, who played alongside Kovac at Bayern between 2001 and 2003, feels such negativity is unwarranted, even if the club find themselves unusually off the summit.
“The situation is of course unusual, but Niko is the right coach for Bayern,” the retired Brazilian striker exclusively told Goal and Spox. “I think that’s what the bosses think.
“After six championships in a row, they also realised that such a phase will come. You have to be patient with Niko and the team."
Though Kovac’s side started the season strongly, consecutive losses against Hertha Berlin and Gladbach checked their progress, drawing the ire of supporters, and Elber admits that if the team had been trailing in the race for the Bundesliga peak when he played, he would have been frustrated too.
“I can still remember my active time,” he added. “When we were in second or third place, we were really annoyed. That was the worst thing ever.
“We went into training totally motivated, wanted to do every day a Bundesliga game to collect points as quickly as possible.
“Bayern is always committed to be at the top. But there are phases in each season that just do not work."
Questions have been asked as to whether Bayern lack an on-field orchestrator to run their games, following the departure of Douglas Costa to Juventus.
Elber admitted that he felt the side was missing the influence of a playmaker, stating: “I also had the same idea when playing against Freiburg. I had to think about Mark van Bommel. One misses such a player types.”
The 46-year-old also encouraged Colombia star James Rodriguez to remain steadfast with the club, following speculation the Real Madrid loanee is set to exit the Allianz Arena for Juventus.
“After returning from Madrid, he found joy in football again,” he noted. “He is doing well not only[at] Bayern, but also [in] the Bundesliga. I hope he stays with us for a long time.”
Kovac and his squad next travel to league leaders Dortmund on Saturday, ahead of the international break. Lucien Favre’s side lost in midweek to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, but Elber still believes the hosts will be odds-on to prevail.
“Dortmund is also the favourite for me, and not only because they play in front of their own fans,” he added. “They have lost against Atletico, but they are all in the Bundesliga at the moment.
“They work very well as a team, have many young and hungry players. Even the rotation principle of Lucien Favre works. One has to say: BVB is doing very well and it is right they are at the top.”