COMMENT: Right call. Right tone. Right time. Kia Joorabchian had to act. The chatter was getting out of hand. It's been humiliating. Malicious. And all designed to belittle his client, Philippe Coutinho...
Someone. Maybe more than one? But there is a heavy influence inside Barcelona that want shot of Coutinho. Those stories. And there's been multiples of them. Those stories since before the end of last season. That Coutinho has been put up for sale. Touted across Europe. Yet there's been no-one bite. Not one offer fielded. They've not just been placed in the press to alert clubs of Coutinho's availability. They've been designed to humiliate. Denigrate. And not just the player, but his handlers also. As we say, Kia had to act.
And to be fair, going into the weekend, this column had thought he'd been caught asleep at the wheel. As mentioned, it's been getting ridiculous. Of course Coutinho is a coveted player. Of course he would have his pick of clubs if formally put up for sale. Yet, from inside Barca, someone is peddling the line the Brazilian is incapable of drumming up any business. And as an extension, so is Joorabchian.
So he acted. A first interview - tellingly - on French radio, before speaking with the English press. Significantly, Joorabchian had been in Barcelona last week, but never offered anything to the local Spanish press. The agent overseeing Neto's move from Valencia before entering talks regarding Coutinho. Sitting in on that meeting was Andre Cury, Barca's main mover-and-shaker when it comes to the Brazilian market. Cury's name would later be dropped by Joorabchian in that first interview to RMC.
But it's the second one, with the Telegraph, which is filling the backpages of the Spanish press today. Joorabchian making it clear he'd had enough. And confirming what many of us had suspected. There is someone inside the club trying to run Coutinho down.
“Coutinho's camp are not actively looking to move him but we believe people inside Barcelona may be acting without authority to try and sell the player," Joorabchian claimed.
“Either Barcelona have to contain the people within their organisation who are giving out information to the contrary or they have to tell us the truth if they have changed their minds."
At best, Joorabchian offered Barca some wriggle room. This wasn't something official. You have a mole, Barca. Someone feeding the local Catalan dailys with a story that runs the opposite of what you've been telling the player. In this salvo, Joorabchian refused to name names. Perhaps he'd given himself time to cool off, because in the earlier chat on French radio, he gave it to us, blow-by-blow.
"Pep Segura, general manager of Barça, told me that Coutinho was not for sale and president (Josep Maria) Bartomeu told me the same thing last week in Barcelona, and with this speech, we decided not to look at the market, for our player, out of respect for the decision," the agent revealed.
"We have not offered the player to other clubs, I learned and it is a fact that André Cury - representative of Barça in South America - is making a totally different speech, and André Cury is pressing for Coutinho to be included in the Neymar transfer with PSG."
No need to read between the lines here. Joorabchian has spelt it out. He may not be behind the leaks, but Cury, as Kia alleges, is trying to push Coutinho out of the club. And done behind Kia and the player's back.
Cury wants Neymar's return. It was he, more than anyone connected to Barca, who saw off competition from Real Madrid and Florentino Perez to bring Neymar from Santos in his original transfer. Cury has long remained close to the player and his father. Indeed, when it became clear Neymar was ready to move to Paris two years ago, Barca sent an SOS to Cury, flying him to the US for one last round of talks with the Brazilian in an attempt to talk him round. That he is now spearheading this move to bring Neymar 'home' is no surprise. But there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things.
Barca know - as does Kia - that as soon as Coutinho is transfer-listed his price will plummet. Knowing they want to sell. Indeed, knowing they need to sell, those interested will have the upper hand. And with only a handful of clubs capable of matching Coutinho's ambitions, there's next to no chance of an auction maintaining his value.
As it stands, Cury may yet get his wish. PSG do represent the best option for Coutinho, who was so close to signing for the Parisians before committing to Barca. A return to Liverpool has also been mentioned. But the Brazilian, as popular as he is among former teammates, would be entering a very different dressing room to the one he left. And in terms of status, would be doing so as a very different player.
Joorabchian will be thinking long and hard about whether Coutinho's character could handle such a come down. Particularly after what his client's endured this past season in Spain.
But he's now on the front foot. And things are moving. For the good of Coutinho, Kia had to act this weekend. Now everyone knows where they stand.