Barcelona have reportedly apologised to officials at Brazilian outfit Gremio after a photograph emerged showing one of their players posing in the Spanish club's colours.
South American football reporter Paulo Freitas took to Twitter on Saturday and posted an image of Gremio midfielder Arthur standing alongside Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez:
Paulo Freitas @Cynegeticus
A pic of Arthur (Grêmio) with Barcelona's sporting director Robert Fernández has also leaked. Grêmio say there are no offers from Barcelona yet. https://t.co/Mk1XGtuWVC2017-12-2 19:46:24
But Gremio chief executive Andre Zanotta has since come out to dismiss any notions of a deal already being agreed, and he told Brazilian daily Globoesporte (h/t OneFootball.com):
"Yesterday [Saturday], Robert Fernandez, director of Barcelona, called me. He apologised. Robert was in Porto Alegre. I apologised to President Romildo. In our view, there is no reason to put a shirt on someone who has a contract until 2021."
Arthur has previously been linked with the Blaugrana but has also since attempted to clear up the story, telling Spanish newspaper Marca (h/t Football Espana) he would "never leave [Gremio] through the back door."
The playmaker is sidelined by injury, but Football Radars recently broke down his club contribution this season, giving some indication as to the talent Barca are interested in:
Football Radars @FussballRadars
Arthur - Brasileirao 2017 [for @juza1337] As Arthur is out for the final day of the Brasileirao due to injury, we might as well just post it now. https://t.co/KsvQrVLl6k2017-12-3 19:05:01
Barcelona would not be permitted to complete a transfer without Gremio agreeing a fee for the player, and the alleged meeting with Arthur could come to have an adverse effect on their transfer hopes.
Following the photo leak, Gremio president Romildo Bolzan told Catalan broadcaster RAC1 that Barca must pay the full value of his €50 million (£43.8 million) release clause in order to land him (h/t Sport): "Arthur has a contract with Gremio and a release clause of 50 million. If they pay that we can't do anything but there is no conversation or negotiations open."
It was only three years ago that Barca were hit with a one-year transfer ban, per Marca's Jeffrey Boxer, and although no word has come from FIFA yet, Barca's transfer methods could again draw unwanted attention from football's governing body.