Three of Bayern Munich's most senior figures have launched extraordinary attacks against what they call 'outrageous' reporting. Speaking at a press conference on Friday, the trio said the club won't stand for it anymore.
As he laughed off talk of a crisis and re-iterated his faith in his players, Niko Kovac was asked what the assembled journalists could expect from the press conference that followed his: "I would suggest we let them surprise us," the Bayern coach said.
Surprise was something of an understatement. Almost as soon as Kovac exited the press conference stage, Uli Hoeness (president), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (CEO) and Hasan Salihamidzic (sporting director) arrived, with teeth gritted and jaws clenched.
Rummenigge opened things up, revealing that Bayern's top brass had met after Germany's defeat to the Netherlands and decided their players were receiving undue criticism from sections of the country's media.
"When I read about Manuel Neuer then I just have no words. I would like to remind you that Manuel was world goalkeeper of the year four times,” Rummenigge said. “The same goes for Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels.”
Bayern players deserve more respect, say bosses
The 63-year-old then told reporters to expect "mail from our media lawyer" for any false or inaccurate reports.
"I don't know if there are special laws for the media but we will not accept this kind of reporting any longer," Rummenigge said. "Today is an important day as we inform you that we will no longer tolerate this derogatory and derisive reporting. We will protect our coach, players and club. It is outrageous, disrespectful and polemical."
After Rummenigge had gone on to lambast the "ludicrous" treatment of Bayern veterans Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, a visibly raging Hoeness took to the microphone.
After echoing Rummenigge's comments, labelling several reports as "false facts" and stating that criticism of indiviudal players has been unfair, Hoeness singled out a reporter for a story which criticized the sale of backup left back Juan Bernat.
The former West Germany international, who spent 18 months in jail on tax evasion charges, said the Spanish player almost "singlehandedly cost Bayern their shot at the Champions League" last term in their knockout tie against Sevilla, a match he said convinced the club that Bernat wasn't good enough.
Former pros also criticized
Later a reporter questioned whether Hoeness was on shaky ground with his point about criticizing individuals, given his earlier attack on Mesut Özil, who Hoeness said had been "playing s**t for years" and "last won a tackle before the 2014 World Cup." Hoeness doubled down, saying he regrets his choice of word but not sentiment.
Lastly it was Salihamidzic's turn. After piling on to the anti-media agenda, describing himself as "horrified" by the coverage, the Bosnian took aim at former Bayern and Germany player turned TV pundit Stefan Effenberg, who had suggested Kovac's job was on the line.
"Effenberg works for TV, I work for FC Bayern," Salihamidzic said. "I was accused of not standing behind Niko Kovac. How so? Everyone knows that I stand by him."
After each man had made his point, the floor was briefly opened up to the stunned journalists, including a reporter from popular tabloid Bild, whose reporting and whose publishing house Axel Springer, had been singled out.
With some of the press pack attempting to defend reputations and question the narrative set by the three men, Bayern's bosses stayed on the attack, again threatening legal action before shutting down any real attempt at debate of the issues.
With Bayern seeking a first win in two months away at Wolfsburg on Saturday, Kovac may be relieved that the media spotlight isn't fixed quite so brightly on him. Where and how that spotlight is focused next may prove to be as interesting as anything that happens on the pitch.