Ante Rebic lived up to his reputation as a stubborn ruffian in the “game of his life”. Throwing caution to the wind, DFB-Pokal winners Eintracht Frankfurt’s reliable forward charged full steam ahead for his coach Niko Kovac and took the coach in his arms and curtly took him to ground. “He’s a pretty big guy,” joked Kovac afterwards.
The 46-year-old brace-scorer’s (11’, 82’) judo training, which he has done for years, didn’t help him in the celebratory attack. Rebic was simply going wild in celebration and he knew who he had to thank for it. “I said thank you to Niko. Thank you for the opportunity to score goals and to win the DFB-Pokal,” Rebic told Sky after his incredible performance. He was voted Man of the Match by fans on the DFB-Pokal app and was presented the winners’ trophy by DFB director Oliver Bierhoff in the post-match celebrations.
The 24-year-old casted away any doubts of his comeback with his two goals, which according to his teammate Marius Wolf were “world class, like every goal against Bayern Munich.” Rebic’s personal matters had already been sorted out last summer when Eintracht changed the loan initiated loan to a transfer from ACF Fiorentina for an estimated three million euros.
The beefy attacker, whose figure was once described as “portly” on TV, dramatically increased his market value when he scored two goals in front of 74,000 spectators in Berlin’s Olympiastadion and millions watching on TV. “He’s a weapon,” praised Kevin-Prince Boateng, while keeper Lukas Hradecky said Rebic had played “the game of his life.”
Most importantly, his all-important second goal left a fine taste on the tongues of Frankfurt fans. Rebic outsprinted Germany internationals Mats Hummels and Niklas Süle like a bullet and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Sven Ulreich very impressively. “It was unbelievable performance. How we just sprinted away and broke free – unbelievable,” Frankfurt sporting director Fredi Bobic raved about the performance.
Rebic’s first goal didn’t only come at a time when Frankfurt were under a lot of pressure, but also was initiated by winning possession in midfield. “You know how important he is, we’ve all seen it in the past when he’s not in the team,” Kovac said about Rebic, who also scored in last year’s final.
Only the boldest optimists would have predicted such rapid development from the player, who competed in the 2014 World Cup and has a contract at Frankfurt running up until 20th June 2021. Injuries and glandular fever held him back at the start of his time in Frankfurt and his recklessness on the pitch and unnecessary yellow cards earned him criticism from Kovac.
“A lot of people assumed that he was a difficult character and a bad boy,” Kovac said after the victory in the final, “But actually he’s a really nice guy. You just have to know how to handle him and sometimes cut him a break.” Then Ante Rebic can be absolutely brilliant.