Only a few minutes after the first win of the season in Frankfurt, Niko Kovac confirmed what many had been predicting for months: Max Kruse will no longer play a game for VfL Wolfsburg under him.
The new coach announced the expulsion of his best-known player live on television, and he did it as directly and without frills as we know from him. "We demand 100 percent identification and concentration from every player and a focus on VfL. We didn't have that feeling with Max," said Kovac in a Sky interview.
Later in the press conference, he listed what else he missed from the 14-time national player: "No impulses, no constructive cooperation in the sense that he is helping the team now. We informed him that he was not there and that we were in The future won't matter. That means: no more games!"
Nothing is more important to Kovac than fitness and discipline
The basic conflict between the two was already created on the day in May that Kovac was hired in Wolfsburg to succeed Florian Kohfeldt, who was close to Kruse. Nothing is more important to the new VfL coach than fitness and discipline. The prominent striker, on the other hand, is clearly not fully trained and apparently did not change his attitude towards professionalism and training diligence under Kovac. The then national coach Joachim Löw threw him out of the national team in 2016 with an almost identical explanation: "I want players who concentrate on football and the European Championship, even between games."
Kruse's expulsion is "not a decision against one"
Despite his successful times in Freiburg, Mönchengladbach or Bremen: The fact that clubs and coaches are less and less willing to tolerate Kruse's fitness deficits and his individualism was already evident last season at Union Berlin. Urs Fischer put him on the bench there too. There, too, many were bothered by privileges such as Kruse's wedding one day after and two days before the next game. "He's a gifted player," said sports director Oliver Ruhnert in the ZDF sports studio. "But you also have to know that he has his head and his own view of things."
Wolfsburg brought him in January as a key player for the relegation battle - and because Kruse has a particularly trusting relationship with Kovac's predecessor, Kohfeldt. His contract even included the clause that Kruse could leave VfL for a small fee if Kohfeldt was no longer the coach.
But initially it seemed to fit between Kovac and Kruse. "Max is a great boy, I only have positive things to say," said the new coach in July. But the rifts that existed from the outset kept getting bigger. Kovac has been preaching public spirit for weeks, Kruse, on the other hand, "continued to present himself as an entertainer on his own behalf," commented the "kicker".
Whether VfL played well or badly, whether Kruse was there or not: A single player attracted all the attention at this location, which was not particularly popular with the media. That also annoyed the coach. Kruse's expulsion was "not a decision against you," said sports director Schäfer. "But for the team and the current situation."
Kruse on Instagram