BERLIN (Reuters) - Croatian Niko Kovac will succeed Jupp Heynckes as Bayern Munich coach next season, agreeing on a three-year contract, the German champions said on Friday.
Treble-chasing Bayern had tried to stick with Heynckes, who had come out of retirement to take over in October until the end of the season, but the 72-year-old turned down an extension of his current deal.
“Niko Kovac will be the new coach from July 1, 2018,” said Bayern sports director Hasan Salihamidzic in a statement. “We agreed yesterday on a three-year contract.
“Niko was a Bayern player, he knows the people in charge as well as the structure and the club’s DNA. We are convinced he is the right coach for the future of Bayern.”
The 46-year-old, who had a long playing career in the Bundesliga, was at Bayern between 2001-03. He joins on a transfer from Eintracht Frankfurt, where he had a contract to 2019, for a reported fee of just over two million euros ($2.5 million).
The decision, however, in favor of Kovac marks a turn for success-driven Bayern, who had previously opted for big-name coaches including Champions League winners Heynckes, Louis van Gaal and Pep Guardiola.
Just like Guardiola in 2013 when he also succeeded Heynckes, Kovac could potentially start work after what could turn out to be a treble-winning campaign, with Bayern having already secured the Bundesliga title, their sixth consecutive league crown.
They are also through to the Champions League last four where they will face Real Madrid. They also take on Bayer Leverkusen in the German Cup semi-final next week.
After the end of his playing career Kovac was briefly an assistant coach in Austria.
He then took over Croatia in 2013 for two years before signing with relegation-threatened Eintracht Frankfurt in 2016 and turning them into Champions League contenders this season.
Eintracht are in fifth place with five games left, two points off fourth-placed Leverkusen. The top four teams qualify for next season’s Champions League group stage.
His brother Robert, also a former Bayern player, will join him from Frankfurt as his assistant.
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Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alison Williams and Christian Radnedge