When Bayern Munich announced an unexpected press conference ahead of their game against VfL Wolfsburg this weekend, speculation was mounting as to the reasons why and lead to some sections of the media to believe that it was to announce the sacking of head coach Niko Kovac. Instead, the hierarchy at the Bavarian giants came out in support of Kovac. What was more surprising however was the blistering attack on the media against the treatment of Bayern Munich’s players after back-to-back defeats for the 2014 World Champions last week against France and the Netherlands.
Bayern president Uli Hoeneß spoke about the negative press that has recently surrounded his team saying that “it’s about time the biggest club in Germany takes a clear stance on this issue. We will no longer accept this recent kind of press coverage.” CEO Karl Heinz-Rumennigge also had his say on the media coverage of Bayern players Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng following the international break stating “We met on Monday after Germany’s international match against the Netherlands and have decided we will no longer accept this style of journalism. What we have had to read in recent times has nothing to do with performance, it was a settlement with individual players. Today we will protect our players, our coaches and also the club.”
Continuing the defence of his players, Rumennigge went on: “Today is an important day as we inform you that we will no longer tolerate this derogatory and derisive reporting. I have no words for what I have read about Manuel Neuer. I would like to remind you that Manuel was world goalkeeper of the year four times. And if I have to read that our central defenders Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng play ‘old men football’, I think: ‘Come on, guys, I want to remind you of Article 1 of the Constitution – the dignity of a person is unassailable.”
Although perhaps over-sensitive, it is laudable that they have publicly defended their players, especially after a slow start to the season. What is laughable however is the rank hypocrisy, particularly from Hoeneß who has never been slow in criticising players. Spanish full-back Juan Bernat was savaged by the President in the press who said that “When we played in Sevilla, he was solely responsible for us almost being eliminated. That day [the Champions League first leg against Sevilla], we decided that we would sell him because he almost cost us all the success in the Champions League.”
He has also been highly critical of Mesut Özil. Speaking after the Arsenal midfielder quit international football and addressing the furore of Ozil’s photo taken with Turkish president Recep Erdogan: “I’m glad this nightmare is over He has been playing crap for years. The last tackle he won was before the 2014 World Cup – and now he is hiding himself and his poor performances behind this photo.” As well as highlighting the hypocrisy, it also perhaps demonstrated that the German champions are perhaps worried by their start to the season after a run of four games without a win.
Whether or not the press conference had any direct effect, Bayern did return to winning ways by beating Wolfsburg 3-1 at the Volkswagen Arena, thanks to a brace from Robert Lewandowski and a goal from James Rodriguez. The result lifts them, perhaps temporarily to third place in the Bundesliga table. After the game Joshua Kimmich was keen to stress the sense of unity at the Bavarian giants and speaking after the Wolfsburg victory that “I think it’s a fantastic sign that the club stands up for the players and protects them. It boosts our sense of togetherness. I think it was good for us to say, we won’t let anybody get to us, we’ll stick together and protect one another.”
The manager Niko Kovac, who would have felt under pressure to get a result was full of praise for his players after the game: “All credit to the team. We were under a lot of pressure. We wanted everyone to focus, work hard and stand up for the club for 90 minutes. The team did it outstandingly well. The victory is completely deserved, even by this scoreline.” For all of the hypocrisy that Hoeneß and Rumennigge’s comments brought, if it had been their intention to galvanise the squad and to improve results, it may well just have worked.
By Jonathan Shelley.