Uli Hoeness, the outspoken Bayern Munich president, has ramped up the pressure on their misfiring squad with a thinly-veiled threat, suggesting any under-performing stars will be shown the door when the season finishes.
“One has to say to the players that they are under pressure for the next three or four months,” Hoeness told German magazine Kicker.
“Then we will see who is needed and who isn’t.” Bayern are fifth in the Bundesliga and their hopes of winning a seventh straight German league title took a dent last Saturday when they lost 3-2 at leaders Borussia Dortmund, who are now seven points ahead of them in the table.
Hoeness’ comments have effectively transferred the pressure from head coach Niko Kovac firmly to his players.
They are believed to refer to veteran wingers Franck Ribery, 35, and Arjen Robben, 34, who are out of contract at the end of the season.
Likewise, Bayern’s burly centre-backs Jerome Boateng, 30, and Mats Hummels, who also turns 30 next month, are no longer as athletic as they once were.
Hoeness’ words could also be aimed at attacking midfielder James Rodriguez, whose two-year loan deal from Real Madrid expires at the end of the season amidst rumours the Colombian star is unhappy under Kovac.
Hoeness says the way the Bayern team performs in the coming weeks will have a direct effect on the Bavarian giants’ activity on the transfer market.
According to Kicker’s sources, investments of at least 200 million euros ($226.2m) are available to buy new players.
Benjamin Pavard, a defender and 2018 World Cup winner with France, currently at Stuttgart, has been repeatedly linked to Bayern and Arsenal’s Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey is reportedly close to signing a deal with the Bavarians, according to reports on Thursday.
On Sunday, Hoeness told Sky he was keen “to change” the face of the team and following the defeat at Dortmund he thought “ten percent of the will to be assertive was missing”, implying he wanted to see more hunger in the squad.