First Team

“We want to achieve a lot together”

New VfL head coach Niko Kovac has lofty ambitions.

VfL Wolfsburg officially unveiled Niko Kovac as their new head coach at a press conference on Monday afternoon. Kovac, who has signed a contract through to 2025 after succeeding Florian Kohfeldt in the Wolves hotseat, answered the assembled media’s questions alongside VfL sporting director Marcel Schäfer.

Kovac has big ambitions with the Green-and-Whites, calling his players in for behind-closed-doors performance tests on Monday ahead of the first training session on the pitch on Wednesday. The 50-year-old was asked about his pre-season preparations, his coaching philosophy and a number of other topics on Monday…

…his move to Wolfsburg: “I’ve always been in touch with Marcel and I know Jörg [Schmadtke] from Leverkusen [where they were team-mates during the 1997/98 campaign]. We soon found out we were on the same page and had a lot in common. During our talks I quickly got the impression that I’m needed, welcome and can assume responsibility here. VfL is a very good destination in the Bundesliga and together we want to put the club back on a path that makes us all happy.”

…his objectives: “Nobody here was happy with finishing 12th in the table. We’ve played in the Champions League and Europa League in recent seasons and the club wants to do so again. That’s why we want to be more successful, because titles are the best – even if they aren’t easy to win in the Bundesliga. But we still want to compete and be successful, which means being back in Europe.”

…his squad: “Quality is the key. The last few years have been difficult for every club, which is why you might need to try one or two things with younger players. That’s what we’re looking to achieve here too. Experienced players will help the team. This squad played in the Champions League and there haven’t been that many departures, but they underperformed last season. Twelfth place doesn’t reflect our quality and it’s up to us to dig it out again. To do so, everyone needs to take on responsibility so we can move VfL forward together.”

…his footballing philosophy: “We go by the VfL motto “Arbeit, Fußball, Leidenschaft” (“work, football, passion”) and want to be physically dominant, physically engaged and play with intensity and aggression – everything you need in football nowadays. By biding your time and holding back, you won’t win many games. Instead, you need to hurt your opponents in certain periods and not react cautiously. With an intense style of play we can work our opponents and score goals – the more the merrier. Regular habits are just as important as finding quick solutions. It’ll take time, but we want to work for it and be dominant.”

…pre-season preparations: “The most important thing in football is commitment. Without it, there’s no way of being successful. The teams I’ve coached have always been fit – that’s part of it. We’ll work hard to get there with VfL. We’ve got the best facilities, so the management and planning of training sessions will be completely coordinated. We’ll obviously give the players the rest they need, but in a goal-oriented way.”