"The mole was on board the plane when Bayern landed in Moscow," Süddeutsche Zeitung stated with suspicious certainty on Tuesday. Alas, Pep Guardiola was not seen studying the passenger manifest at Vnukovo airport; the Munich-based broadsheet only made the point that "the cute insectivore" had undoubtedly accompanied the treble winners "as the No1 topic of debate" on their trip to Russia.
The German papers have had a field day since Sunday night, when Bild broke the news that the Catalan coach had castigated his players for a series of indiscretions about tactics and formations that appeared in the same tabloid and threatened grave consequences ("It does not matter who it is, heads will roll") for the culprit.
"It's morally and ethically wrong," said chairman of the board Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, while the captain Philipp Lahm announced that the players would meet for a talk and be reminded of their responsibilities: "There are rules in every team, and if they're broken, it's unpleasant." Arjen Robben professed being "sad that something like that happens; it's not appropriate for a big team". At the same time, the Dutch winger remembered that he has been at Bayern for five years and that "it's always been like that".
That last observation is key. Bayern have been a leaky club as long as anyone can remember. When Franz Beckenbauer was appointed president 20 years ago, news of player signings and managerial changes would often find their way into Bild ahead of any official announcements – Beckenbauer was also a columnist at the time. Secrecy was never a huge concern at Säbener Strasse; on the contrary, access to players and managers was actively encouraged to ensure a constant media presence. As the author Ronald Reng recalls in his wonderful book Spieltage, a social history of 50 years of the Bundesliga, Bayern used to hand out lists of squad and coaching staff mobile phone numbers to journalist in the late 90s.
With that in mind, Uli Hoeness played down the significance of the story. "The players nearly kill themselves laughing about these headlines," said the president. "It makes me smile. If these are our only problems, we can live with that."
The local tabloid Abendzeitung also saw the funny side. It juxtaposed Guardiola with Der kleine Maulwurf, the popular kids cartoon mole, and ran an interview with "expert" Lothar Matthäus that verged on self-parody. "I don't think any Bayern player is stupid enough to be a mole," said the former Bayern and Germany player, who was himself infamous for tipping off reporters.
Being fairly open about tactics and lineups is also not an exclusively Bavarian phenomenon. All Bundesliga clubs still have (some) open training sessions, and local reporters usually have a very good idea who is playing well in advance. Guardiola, however, has been unhappy about this kind of transparency. Last month, the Catalan ordered the erection of a fence and giant sun shades around one training pitch to shield closed training sessions before matches from the view of reporters and opposition scouts, who used to congregate on a little hill top behind Säbener Strasse compound.
His predecessors, Jupp Heynckes and Louis van Gaal, were far less concerned with the control of information but then, they also had less reason to be: unlike the obsessive perfectionist Guardiola, they did not constantly come up with new, opponent-specific ideas and lineups.
The 42-year-old's outburst in the changing room was triggered by a Bild report that accurately predicted Bayern's use of long balls in the 3-0 win at Dortmund. But his threat ("I will throw him out, he will not play any more") is best understood as an attempt to keep a lid on future leaks, not the beginning of an earnest spy hunt with the help of private detectives and phone-taps. (Unconfirmed reports in the Spanish media alleged that similar methods were used to keep checks on players when Guardiola was coaching at Barcelona in the Joan Laporta era.)
Guardiola will surely know that in all likelihood, there is not one specific mole. Different players (and their agents) as well as staff members and club officials talk at different times to different papers or TV reporters. It was the same at Barcelona and will not change.
The only thing Guardiola can do is to sensitise his players. There is a good chance a few of them do not realise how crucial the element of surprise is to him; keeping their own plans secret has rarely been seen as important at Germany's most successful club.