Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has rubbished claims in Marca that captain Iker Casillas and vice-captain Sergio Ramos have demanded that head coach Jose Mourinho be removed at the end of the season.
The players, who are rumoured to be unhappy with the coach, held a meeting with Perez to discuss bonuses on Tuesday evening, where Marca claimed the duo had issued an "either he goes or we go" ultimatum and would leave the club if Mourinho did not depart in the summer.
Perez called a surprise press conference on Thursday lunchtime at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to issue a denial of the report.
"After the serious incident which happened today I have broken my policy of not speaking about day-to-day matters at the club," Perez said. "It is totally false that at the dinner held with the captains and the director general an ultimatum about the coach was issued, or anything similar.
"The only reason for the meal was to work out the bonuses for the current season. The meeting took place in a magnificent atmosphere with a responsible attitude on the part of the captains. What is published is not correct - neither in its content nor its meaning. I accept that some criticism can take place, although that seems to me unjust, but there are ethical limits which everyone must respect."
Perez said that he thought the story looked to have been published because someone who wanted to force both him and Mourinho out of the club.
"Nobody called me, not me or anyone who was at that meal, to check the truth of this lie or to get our version," he said. "It is very serious. I understand that the departure of someone from the club, the coach or the president, is an objective for someone, but to use a lie to achieve this does not seem ethical to me. I am here to say this very clearly: what was published is simply a lie."
Asked repeatedly if the players were in fact tired of Mourinho's managerial style, or if he had spoken with the Portuguese coach about what had been discussed at the meeting or the morning's speculation, Perez said he was not here to talk about that and his only intention was to make clear that the Marca story was false.
"I have just come here to say the information was false and that people are trying to destabilise the club," he said. "I have the responsibility to defend this club, its honour and its 110 years of history. I would say someone was not happy that we had the success of reaching the Copa del Rey semi-final and wanted to destabilise the club. The level of responsibility of the captains is incompatible with the published information. You can speak with the four people. I am speaking in the name of the club and its players."
Perez and the club's captains do meet annually around this stage of the season to discuss the bonuses to be paid should the team win trophies. The fourth person present at Tuesday's meeting, which took place at the offices of Perez's ACS construction company, was the president's long-time right-hand man and current club director general, Jose Angel Sanchez.
Casillas and Ramos later issued a statement via the club's official website.
It read: "Regarding the story which appeared today in a certain media outlet, Madrid's two primary captains wish to communicate the following:
"1. That at the meeting held last Tuesday with the president and director general of the club, no type of ultimatum was made on our part regarding our coach.
"2. As captains of the squad and members of an excellent group of people and professionals, we reject categorically the use of our names and those of the rest of the squad to back up a story which we say is totally false.
"3. We wish to show our support for our coach, Jose Mourinho, to whom we owe maximum respect.
"4. Finally, we wish to transmit to Real Madrid's socios and fans our unalterable conviction that, with the unity of all madridismo, we will overcome, as always, all the challenges which face us each season."
There have been numerous reports of problems in the dressing room in recent weeks. Mourinho's decision to drop Casillas met with inevitable speculation over his relationship with the goalkeeper, while Raul Albiol moved to play down talk of a rift between the coach and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Former Madrid defender Michel Salgado said in an interview at the weekend that he believed Mourinho had issues with the squad as a whole.