Following an disastrous run of results, Niko Kovac as Bayern Munich’s new manager has been forced to deny claims over a rift with James Rodriguez amid speculation surrounding the two's relationship.
Kovac was appointed as the Bundesliga champions’ new boss during the summer after guiding Eintracht Frankfurt to remarkable German Cup win.
The step up to managing Bayern has, however, proved more difficult for Kovac in the early phases of this season, and Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at home to Ajax had allegedly prompted James Rodriguez, as reported by BILD (via Marca) to exclaim: “We’re not at Frankfurt here.”
It would seem to be a remarkable claim from a player who is still seeking to re-build his career at the Allianz Arena after fading into the periphery at parent club Real Madrid.
The former Porto attacker did not play any part in the recent 1-1 draw with Augsburg in the Bundesliga, and was left on the bench against Ajax as his side succumbed to the same score line in the Champions League.
However, Kovac has insisted that Rodriguez remains a key player under his management at the Allianz Arena and played down the speculation regarding dressing room unrest, as the 46-year-old insisted, via Goal: “We have a lot of international players. There will always be cases where one player plays and another doesn’t.
“James is a player of extraordinary quality and is important for the club. He’s proved that several times, but I can’t play with 12 men. He will play as many games as the others.”
Bayern suffered 2-0 defeat away to Hertha Berlin in their last outing in the Bundesliga, though Rodriguez did start in that game in which the defending champions succumbed to another disappointing result.
“Some are, of course, disappointed not to play,” Kovac continued, “and we’re also disappointed with recent results.
“Nevertheless, there is a real sense of unity in the team. The atmosphere is positive.”
Pressure on Kovac has further mounted amid claims that Bayern president Uli Hoeness said the Croatian was “putting his neck on the line” through heavy squad rotation between games, but the Bayern boss appeared unfazed by the comments.
“I talked to Hoeness and it wasn’t criticism,” Kovac continued. “I wouldn’t call it big rotation. We have a lot of good players and we have been successful at it.”