We've been here before, haven't we? Absurd conjecture about an imminent transfer away from Manchester City seems to follow Yaya Toure, with the latest batch of exit rumours arguably the strangest yet.
According to a report by Antony Kastrinakis in the Sun (subscription required), Toure's agent, Dimitry Seluk, claims the midfielder is upset that the club failed to acknowledge his birthday during a postseason trip to Abu Dhabi and is considering an exit from the Etihad:
Yaya is so upset he's thinking of leaving City. There are a number of things that have happened that have left Yaya feeling bitterly upset. He must concentrate on the World Cup now. But City have treated him with disrespect and have really hurt him.
They don't know that money can't buy relationships – no Sheikh can buy a relationship. This isn't about money or a new contract – it's about human relationships and City have shown they don't respect him. I repeat, this is not about money. In fact, he would take less to return to Barcelona.
What happened at his birthday meant the club don't care about him. It was proof. They can say whatever they want, 'Oh we like him but we forgot'.
"Forgot? About Yaya? The player who helped you to be two-times Premier League champions? The guy who helped you win the FA Cup and the League Cup?
His birthday can be on a normal day and, in a normal team, his team-mates and club would at least give him good wishes.
But when you win the title on May 11, a day later you go to Abu Dhabi and on May 13 you have a big party to celebrate the title and nobody comes to Yaya to say, 'Happy birthday', what more do you want?
But footage on City's official site shows that Seluk's claims are nonsense. On the team's flight to Abu Dhabi, Toure was wished a happy birthday and presented with a cake.
Seluk, though, has a history of this kind of thing. In March of last year, with Toure involved in contract renewal talks, a report in the Sun, again written by Kastrinakis, suggested Toure had decided to quit City. On May 4th, the Ivorian signed a new four-year contract and told the club's official website:
This is where I want to be. When I first arrived at City every time I went to sleep I would dream about us winning something; now it is about us being the best team in whatever competition we take part in.
I will never forget how I have been treated here by the fans, the club and the owners and nothing would give me greater pleasure than to finish my career as a Manchester City player.
I want to continue winning titles and trophies and continue to make history. I have enjoyed all of my time here and can’t wait for the next chapter. This is an incredible club to be part of with fans that support a team to the end whatever the circumstances.
And the summer before, Seluk told a Spanish radio station, as reported by Ian Ladyman in the Mail:
Toure has done all he can do at City and needs new motivations. He would like a new challenge. He would not cost much.
He could sign for many big clubs, like Chelsea or Bayern Munich. We would like to see Barcelona join the race.
Seluk has repeatedly tried to unsettle his client's relationship with his club, and the latest episode in this ongoing saga should be rejected out of hand. Toure's current deal runs until 2017, and he has just enjoyed the finest season of his career, scoring 24 goals in all competitions and winning the League Cup and the Premier League title.
He's been given more responsibility by Manuel Pellegrini—encouraged to attack as often as possible, free from the constraints of defensive duties. He's flourishing in City's attack-minded setup and will surely feel well placed to continue winning silverware at the club.
Two headlines from last year by the same author of tonight's Yaya-to-leave stories. A mouthpiece for Dimitri Seluk? pic.twitter.com/kqMQUP0f43— City Watch (@City_Watch) May 20, 2014
Seluk and Kastrinakis appear to have a cosy relationship, but that hasn't stopped the latest round of nonsense from being taken seriously. One "Yaya Toure birthday" Twitter search tells you everything you need to know about the gullibility of the online football community.
City fans should not fear. This is mischief-making and nothing more. With three years remaining on his sizable contract and an important role in a successful side, why would he want to leave now?
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_.