||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2009)|
|Date of birth||15 October 1971|
|Place of birth||West Berlin, West Germany|
|Height||1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in)|
|1991||Hertha BSC II||12||(1)|
|2006–2009||Red Bull Salzburg||65||(9)|
|2009–2011||Red Bull Salzburg (academy)|
|2011–2012||Red Bull Salzburg (assistant)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Niko Kovač (Croatian pronunciation: [niːko koʋaːtʃ]) (born 15 October 1971) is a former Croatian footballer who last played as a midfielder for Red Bull Salzburg. He was the long-standing captain of Croatia before retiring from international football in January 2009. A defensive midfielder who is known for his excellent passing and tackling skills, Niko was, at the time of his retirement, the oldest player in the Croatian squad and had been an important motivation raiser for them, having captained them at UEFA Euro 2004, the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2008. He has also enjoyed a high level of top club action, having spent most of his career in the Fußball-Bundesliga. He is the older brother of Robert Kovač.
Born in West Berlin to a family of Croatian gastarbeiters hailing from the Livno area in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kovač started to play football at local club Hertha Zehlendorf and became a member of their first team in the summer of 1989 at the age of 17. He moved to Hertha BSC in the summer of 1991 and started his professional career with the club that competed in the Second Bundesliga at the time.
In the summer of 1996, Kovač left Hertha, still a Second Bundesliga side at the time, for Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen. He made his Bundesliga debut on 17 August 1996, appearing as a halftime substitute in the club's opening match of the 1996–97 season, a 4–2 home victory over Borussia Dortmund. He appeared in 32 Bundesliga matches in his first season with Bayer Leverkusen, also scoring three goals. However, he mostly played as a substitute in the following two seasons and missed several matches in the 1997–98 season after sustaining an injury in the club's home match against VfB Stuttgart in December 1997. In three seasons with Bayer Leverkusen, Kovač made 77 Bundesliga appearances and scored eight goals in the league competition. At the club, he was teammates with his younger brother Robert for the first time in his professional career.
Kovač joined Hamburger SV in the summer of 1999 and spent two seasons with the club, making 55 Bundesliga appearances and scoring 12 goals for Hamburg in the Bundesliga. In the summer of 2001, he left Hamburg for Bayern Munich where he was once again teammates with his younger brother Robert.
However, Kovač did not manage to establish himself as a regular at the club and left Bayern Munich for Hertha BSC after two seasons in the summer of 2003. He appeared in 34 Bundesliga matches and scored three goals for Bayern in the league.
Kovač then signed for Hertha BSC again. He made 75 Bundesliga appearances for Hertha BSC and scored eight goals for the club in the league.
Red Bull Salzburg
After the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Kovač left Hertha BSC after three seasons for Austrian Bundesliga side Red Bull Salzburg. He is now a regular in the Salzburg team and also appeared in all of their four UEFA Champions League qualifiers in the summer of 2006. On 26 August 2006, he scored his first goal for Red Bull Salzburg in the Austrian Bundesliga, netting the second goal in their 4–0 home victory over Wacker Tirol. He signed one more year until summer 2009 in May 2008. On 29 May 2009, Kovač left after three years FC Red Bull Salzburg and retired from professional football. He played his last game for Red Bull Salzburg in a friendly match against FC Bayern Munich, where he was substituted after the first 15 minutes.
After his retirement from professional football he became coach of the second squad of Red Bull Salzburg, Red Bull Juniors. In 2011 he was promoted to being assistant coach of the first squad together with Ricardo Moniz as headcoach.
After Moniz resigned as a first team coach in June 2012, Kovač was one of the favorites for taking his position. But eventually job went to Roger Schmidt and Kovač left Salzburg.
On 21 January 2013, Igor Štimac, head coach of Croatia national football team, announced that Niko Kovač, alongiside his brother Robert, will take over as Croatia national under-21 football team head coach.
Kovač made his international debut in Croatia's friendly match against Morocco on 11 December 1996 in Casablanca. He subsequently also appeared in three qualifying matches for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, but missed the finals in France because he did not fully recover from injury until the beginning of the preparations for the tournament. He was subsequently not part of the national team for two years before making his comeback in a friendly match against France in November 1999.
At international level, Kovač played for Croatia in five qualifying matches for the 2002 FIFA World Cup and scored one goal in their 4–0 victory away against San Marino. At the final tournament, he appeared as a starting player in all three group matches before Croatia was eliminated from the tournament with a third-place finish in their group. He was also a regular in the UEFA Euro 2004 qualifying, making seven appearances and scoring two goals in away matches, the 1–0 winner against Estonia and the opening goal in the team's 3–0 victory over Andorra. He also played the entire three group matches played by the Croatian team at the final Euro 2004 tournament in Portugal and scored the opening goal in the final group match against England, but Croatia ended up losing the match 4–2 and was once again eliminated from the tournament as the group third-placed.
After the Euro 2004 finals, Kovač became the Croatian national team's captain and led the team through the qualifying campaign for the 2006 FIFA World Cup finals in Germany. He appeared in nine out of the ten qualifying matches and scored two goals, both in Croatia's 4–0 victory over Iceland at home in Zagreb. At the final tournament, he appeared in all three of Croatia's group matches, despite sustaining an injury which forced him to leave the pitch after 40 minutes of the team's opening match against Brazil. Kovač scored the goal that put Croatia 2–1 up in the final group match against Australia. However, the match ended in a 2–2 draw and Croatia was eliminated by virtue of finishing third in the group. This was the third consecutive time this had happened in a major tournament.
UEFA Euro 2008 was a bittersweet campaign for captain Kovač. His sterling performances against Germany and Turkey ultimately unrewarded in what could prove to be his last major tournament. Against Germany, he was peerless, producing a man of the match display alongside Luka Modrić whilst against Turkey, he reduced his opponents to pot shots from distance as they rarely broke through his screening protection of the back four. Before and after that game, Kovač reiterated his intention to retire from international football at the end of Euro 2008, however, after conversation with Slaven Bilić, it would seem he feels there is 'unfinished business' to take care of.
Kovač finally announced his international retirement on 7 January 2009, stating a desire that younger players should be given experience in the Croatia side.
|1||29 March 2000||Maksimir, Zagreb||Germany||
|2||5 September 2001||Olimpico, Serravalle||San Marino||
||World Cup 2002 Qualifying|
|3||8 May 2002||PMFC, Pécs||Hungary||
|4||11 June 2003||A. Le Coq Arena, Tallinn||Estonia||
||Euro 2004 Qualifying|
|5||6 September 2003||Comunal, Aixovall||Andorra||
||Euro 2004 Qualifying|
|6||21 June 2004||Estádio da Luz, Lisbon||England||
|7–8||26 March 2005||Maksimir, Zagreb||Iceland||
||World Cup 2006 Qualifying|
|9||22 June 2006||Gottlieb-Daimler, Stuttgart||Australia||
||World Cup 2006|
|10–11||22 August 2007||Koševo, Sarajevo||Bosnia and Herzegovina||
|12||24 May 2008||Kantrida, Rijeka||Moldova||
|13||31 May 2008||Szusza Ferenc, Budapest||Hungary||
|14||6 September 2008||Maksimir, Zagreb||Kazakhstan||
||World Cup 2010 Qualifying|
|Club performance||League||Cup||League Cup||Continental||Total|
|1991–92||Hertha BSC||2. Bundesliga||12||1|
|Austria||League||Austrian Cup||League Cup||Europe||Total|
|2006–07||Red Bull Salzburg||Bundesliga||28||6|
- "Ex-Bundesligaspieler Niko Kovac beendet Karriere" (in German). transfermarkt.de.[dead link]
- "Torloses Remis zwischen Salzburg und Bayern" (in German). goal.com. 10 July 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
- Štrbinić, Lovro (21 January 2013). "Štimac objavio popis za Južnu Koreju, braća Kovač preuzimaju mladu reprezentaciju" (in Croatian). Sportnet.hr. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
- "Croatia v Australia statistics". news.bbc.co.uk. BBC Sport. 22 June 2006. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
- "Nico KOVAC". level-k.com. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
- Niko Kovač – FIFA competition record
- Niko Kovač at National-Football-Teams.com
- Niko Kovač international stats at the Croatian Football Federation website
- Niko Kovač at Transfermarkt.de
- Niko Kovač at Leverkusen Who's Who