Did Nike just accidentally leak Philippe Coutinho's transfer to Barcelona?

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Nike’s <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/philippe-coutinho/" data-ylk="slk:Philippe Coutinho">Philippe Coutinho</a> promotion, before it was removed. (Screenshot: Nike official website)
Nike’s Philippe Coutinho promotion, before it was removed. (Screenshot: Nike official website)

Transfer leaks come in all shapes and forms, from all kinds of different sources, and at all times of day and night. But the latest absurd twist in the Philippe Coutinho transfer saga is one that even a fake news website couldn’t have dreamt up.

Nike, the official merchandise supplier of Barcelona, added a Coutinho-specific promotion to its website late Saturday night. The section, which read, “Philippe Coutinho is ready to light up Camp Nou,” was removed, but not before fans noticed.

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Coutinho, as far as the public knows, is still a Liverpool player. He played for the Reds in a 2-1 victory over Leicester City on Saturday. But he has been a Barcelona target since the summer. And with the winter transfer window set to open on Jan. 1, rumors have picked up steam once again.

In fact, the Nike website’s promotion appeared to be scheduled for Jan. 1, 2018. Hat tip to the Reddit user who noticed this:

The web address for Nike’s Philippe Coutinho promotion. (Screenshot: Reddit user “dinoucs”)
The web address for Nike’s Philippe Coutinho promotion. (Screenshot: Reddit user “dinoucs”)

There are several possible explanations for the goof. But it is unlikely to have been a hack, because it was available in several languages, including English, Spanish, Catalan, German and French.

So what the heck happened here? There are really only two plausible answers:

1. The transfer is going to happen, and Nike accidentally programmed the promotion to appear on its website 24 or 48 hours too early. Or …

2. The transfer may or may not happen, but Nike has prepared the promotion just in case it does. Nike therefore has code pre-written and a page set up for when – if – Barcelona officially announces the deal. But somehow, that code went live instead of sitting around as a draft.

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A January move for Coutinho from Liverpool to Barcelona doesn’t seem to make too much sense for either club. The Brazilian wouldn’t be able to play in the Champions League knockout rounds for Barca, and the Catalan club already has a La Liga title more or less locked up.

Still, this is peculiar. It’s not necessarily ominous if you’re a Liverpool fan. But it’s sketchy. It isn’t not ominous. We’ll update this story if Nike offers an official explanation.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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