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Kovac an admirer of Pavard, expects James to stay

Niko Kovac refused to comment on transfer speculation linking Bayern Munich with World Cup-winning defender Benjamin Pavard, but he does expect to be able to call upon the services of James Rodriguez next season.

Pavard, 22, played all but one of France's matches en route to winning the World Cup, even scoring one of the goals of the tournament with a stunning volley in the thrilling 4-3 last-16 win over Argentina.

Usually a centre-back with Stuttgart last season, Pavard excelled at right-back in Russia and would therefore add useful versatility to Bayern's defence, with strong reports claiming the player has already signed a pre-contract agreement for 2019, when a €35million release clause is reportedly due to come into effect.

Kovac insists he knows nothing of such rumours, though he did not hide his admiration for the defender.

"I cannot say anything about it," the Bayern head coach told reporters in a news conference on Thursday.

"You'll have to contact Brazzo [sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic]. I can confirm that he is a really good player.

"We have a team of 22 players and it will be a difficult task to keep everybody happy. We do not talk about another one."

James is another player whose future is in the air, with some suggestions that Real Madrid could attempt to bring him back from his loan spell in Munich.

But Kovac is expecting him to remain at the Allianz Arena, with Bayern holding a purchase option until next year.

"All I know is that we have an ongoing loan contract which is valid," he added. "It ends either in the direction that we exercise the option and he stays or not. For the moment it looks like he's staying here."

Bayern were without first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for most of last season due to a broken foot and, although Sven Ulreich performed admirably in his stead, Kovac appeared to dash his hopes of retaining his spot in goal for next term.

"Sven did a really good job, hardly anyone thought he could – he proved he was right to be here," Kovac said.

"I know I can count on him, but Neuer is a world-class goalkeeper. I know who the number one is and who the number two is, but I also know that number two is a number one."