Borussia Monchengladbach coach Lucien Favre has admitted his surprise over comments made by U.S. international Fabian Johnson regarding his favourite position.
Johnson, 27, joined The Foals on a free transfer from domestic rivals Hoffenheim following the 2014 World Cup, which saw the U.S. international excel at right-back.
However, his participation in the tournament in Brazil meant that he arrived late for his first training sessions at Gladbach.
Johnson found it hard to break into Favre's side during the first half of the season, starting only seven of a possible 29 competitive games at his new club. When playing, Johnson was used both in left midfield and at right-back.
Throughout the first half of the season, Johnson said that he prefers playing at right-back, but that the versatility is working in his favour, and that ultimately he will play wherever the coach fields him.
Gladbach legend Berti Vogts, who worked with Johnson during the 2014 World Cup as Jurgen Klinsmann's assistant, warned Favre to not play the USMNT international out of position, saying: "Left midfield is not Johnson's position, he might have three touches of the ball in 90 minutes there. He's a right-back."
Last weekend, Johnson admitted in German newspaper Bild that he played a disappointing first half of the season, and vowed to fight for his place. He added: "My favourite position is at right-back. I played there before my transfer."
Those comments have now led to what Bild has dubbed a "spat" between Favre and Johnson. Speaking to reporters at the end of the Foals' training camp in Belek, the Swiss coach said he was rather surprised to hear about Johnson's favourite position.
"He has always told me that his favourite position is on the left. That's a problem; he tells me this and [tells] others that his favourite position is at right-back. I wasn't aware of that," Favre was quoted by Bild as saying.
In Belek, Turkey, Johnson played both positions in Gladbach's friendlies during their winter training camp. In the 3-2 defeat to Werder Bremen, Johnson started on the left before playing in defence for the final 25 minutes.
The Foals conceded late goals during that period of the game, and the U.S. international did not impress according to Bild.
"He played well in left midfield against Bremen," Favre added, and when asked how Johnson played at right-back he added: "You all saw it."