Bayern Munich have won the Bundesliga championship for six straight seasons, so their relatively slow start (after winning their first four matches, they’ve had one draw and three losses since) is a bit out of a surprise.
When a heavily favored team starts slow (or slow-ish) in any sport, that becomes a media narrative. When you combine Bayern’s start with the recent lack of success for the German national team (which features plenty of Bayern players) it’s even more understandable that there would be plenty of debate in the German press. Understandable, apparently, to everyone but the Bayern Munich leadership. In a display of totally normal, not at all concerning behavior, the team’s chairman and president were so incensed by the tone of the recent coverage they decided to lecture the media to their faces at a press conference.
Via the BBC:
Bayern Munich accused the media of “disrespect” and of breaking the German constitution with recent criticism in an extraordinary news conference.
After manager Niko Kovac had spoken, chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and president Uli Hoeness came forward.
“It’s about time the biggest club in Germany takes a clear stance on this issue,” said Hoeness.
“We will no longer accept this recent kind of media coverage,” added Rummenigge, who also threatened possible legal action should criticism continue.
The legal action part is hilarious, and they apparently gave away some of their impending legal strategy later on in the presser:
“We met on Monday after Germany’s international match against the Netherlands and have decided we will no longer accept this style of journalism,” said Rummenigge.
“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.
“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’.”
While it sounds and is ridiculous, especially because there are plenty of reasons to question the effectiveness of older players, think for a moment about a world in which you could be threatened with legal action simply for having objectively horrible takes on sports. Skip Bayless would be debating his cellmate right now.
But this isn’t exactly invalid criticism, and while normally it’s admirable to see a team defend its players, in this case it just comes across as supremely tone deaf. Especially considering team president Hoeness has a history of going overboard with his own criticism of players, including very recently when he said Mesut Ozil had been playing like “shit” for years. That came up too, as ESPN’s Stephen Uersfeld noted:
But when asked about Bayern’s criticism of Mesut Ozil following his withdrawal from the national team, and of Bayer Leverkusen winger Karim Bellarabi — who made what Hoeness called a “mentally ill” tackle on Rafinha — the president said he should have chosen his words more carefully.
“In general, there is a difference between a statement I make right after a match and those you write a day or two after the match,” he told the news conference.
“Sometimes you are emotional and excited. I should not have said mentally ill, for instance.”
Hoeness also delivered the famous quote about Landon Donovan not being qualified to play for Bayern’s amateur reserves, so it’s not like they’ve been living examples of the importance of civility in soccer.
And just for the hell of it, in the same press conference where he criticized reporters for criticizing players, Hoeness criticized former Bayern player Juan Bernat. Bernat was sold to PSG over the summer, and as Goal reports, Hoeness did not hold back in damning Bernat’s performance in the spring’s Champions League tie away against Sevilla, which Bayern ended up winning.
And discussing the sale, Hoeness revealed to reporters in an explosive press conference on Friday: “When we played in Seville, 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.”
In the end, it’s pretty simple: when your team plays well, the media tends to say nice things, and vice versa. If Bayern’s leadership was determined to extinguish the idea that something is very wrong this year, they failed miserably.