Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich lauded Julian Nagelsmann as "easily" being among his top three coaches ahead of the 35-year-old's expected dismissal by the Bundesliga giants.
Strong reports began to circulate on Thursday suggesting Bayern would remove Nagelsmann from his post despite club officials recently describing him as a "long-term project".
It was stated Bayern had made their decision and communicated it internally, with the news expected to be made official on Friday as the club apparently prepared to appoint Thomas Tuchel.
Many of Bayern's players are away on international duty this week, and Kimmich – among their most senior stars – appeared in Germany's pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of a friendly against Peru.
While unwilling to openly discuss the rumours, he was unequivocal in his regard for Nagelsmann.
"It's generally understandable that it's a hot topic, but there was no confirmation from the club, so I ask for your understanding that I won't say much more about it," he said.
"Of course, such talk concerns you [as a Bayern player]. It's about the coaching position in your own club, he's the coach you work with every day.
"But that shouldn't play a role in [Saturday]'s game or in training here."
He added: "Julian Nagelsmann is an outstanding coach.
"I've had a lot of top coaches now, but I'd say he's easily in the top three of my previous coaches. But I can't say anything about the current state of affairs."
2.19 - As Bayern Munich manager, Julian Nagelsmann gained 2.19 points per game on average in the Bundesliga - it's the fourth best value of all Bayern managers in Bundesliga history. Sacked? pic.twitter.com/3bIGoz4XO0— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) March 24, 2023
The situation appears to have come out of the blue given Bayern won the Bundesliga last season, are firmly in the title race this term, and remain in contention in the Champions League.
However, it has been suggested the club's hierarchy are unimpressed by the team's form since the turn of the year, dropping 12 points in 10 Bundesliga games.
That has contributed to them falling a point behind rivals Borussia Dortmund, their next opponents in Der Klassiker on April 1.
There is also a theory Bayern have been pressed into action because of Tuchel's availability – or the possibility he might have soon become unavailable again.
The former Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Dortmund coach has been out of work since September but was being strongly with Tottenham – who are expected to part ways with Antonio Conte – and PSG, where Christophe Galtier's future is uncertain following Champions League elimination.
Nagelsmann's predecessor at Bayern was Hansi Flick, the current Germany head coach. Flick did not hide his shock at the situation on Friday, but was eager to ensure it did not become a distraction.
"We were very, very surprised by the headlines last night, but I don't think Bayern Munich has commented on that yet," Flick said.
"Out of respect for Julian and Bayern, I won't say anything on the subject during the press conference. That says it all."
He added: "It's not going to impact everyone. Still, it's my job to talk to all the players – I've already done that. Now we have to wait and see what really comes out in the end."