Relations between Filip Kostic and Eintracht Frankfurt were strained at the start of the season. In the Europa League final in Seville, there may now be the final happy ending.
The Camp Nou was already half empty, it was late at night, the breathtaking 3: 2 by Frankfurt Eintracht in the big FC Barcelona must have been half an hour ago. People in white hugged each other all over the stadium, sang their songs and rubbed their eyes. Filip Kostic, the best footballer Eintracht Frankfurt has, walked alone in front of the basket.
He was greeted with chants, 30,000 Eintracht fans are said to have been at the Camp Nou the day it felt like more, in the game, and also afterwards. Kostic took off his jersey and held it out to the fans with his name and jersey number first. A gesture that is half a gift, half a proud coffin, as if Kostic was hoisting a flag on a mountain he had just climbed. Look, I’m Filip Kostic, Barcelona’s conqueror, king of Camp Nou.
For a day like Cruyff, Ronaldinho, Messi
Camp Nou has already seen many kings, Cruyff, Ronaldinho, Messi, this evening Kostic was in their line for a brief moment. He even scored two goals for Eintracht’s sensational advancement, who knows how many of his fantastic sprints he attracted, how often Barca fans thought: who is this man and why is he so good? Kostic was the formative player that night, he had played in his hands, he was completely himself and the game was his. “The best match of my career,” he said, smiling the next day.
The 2021/22 season did not start royally at all for Kostic and Eintracht Frankfurt. Kostic, after the departure of Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Sebastian Haller’s last remaining member of the sensational offensive in previous years, saw himself, and not wrongly, called to higher things – and wanted to move to Lazio Rome.
“We are human beings, we all make mistakes”
Kostic has always been said to have an affinity for Serie A, but also to be an impeccable athlete. And then, after an offer that was way too low, a public apology and eventually a change of agent, he returned to the team. “We are human beings, we all make mistakes,” Eintracht sporting director Markus Krösche opened the door at the time. No one was evil at Kostic.
Kostic is now 29 years old and his career has not gone well for a player in his class. He started in Groningen, with Stuttgart and HSV he was relegated, some were skeptical when Fredi Bobic brought him to Frankfurt in 2018. But at Eintracht he flourished, showed some world-class performances, tore the fans from the chairs. In 2020/21, he prepared 17 league goals that no Frankfurter had ever managed before him, not even the great legends of Hesse, Jürgen Grabowski or Uwe Bein. But Kostic has never played in the Champions League, nor has he won a title. For someone like him who on a good night can shut up at the Camp Nou and scream at the same time, it’s actually not enough.
Calling the playoffs historic is an understatement
That is probably also why the desire for change before the season came. For how likely it looked in the summer of 2021 that Eintracht Frankfurt would be able to play for the Champions League again after the chance was so carelessly given away last season. Or that a title could even be won at the end of the season, especially an international one. An opportunity like this has not existed since 1980, only twice in the club’s 123-year history. Calling the final in Seville historic is an understatement. The players know that too.
That is one of the reasons why this final is also the final for Filip Kostic. Not only does he have the chance to win his first title and advance into the Champions League. He might as well find his place. Not just as someone who is finally there, where he belongs purely sportingly, namely at the top of European club football, with a trophy in hand. But as a club icon, as the player who gave the Eintracht Frankfurt Europa Cup, just as his teammate Ante Rebic did with the DFB Cup. All he has to do is climb Mount Seville. And then hold the trophy to the fans. Behold, I am Filip Kostic, King of Frankfurt.