Black Cats boss David Moyes has lashed out at Roberto De Fanti for the agent's comments earlier today regarding his two clients at the Stadium of Light.
The former Sunderland Director of Football has asserted that the departure of the players he represents, Fabio Borini and Vito Mannone, is inevitable with the club on the brink of relegation.
Roberto De Fanti defends his Sunderland spending spree | Interview by @James_Riach http://t.co/yWreDNByHq pic.twitter.com/AWYxCb2G0v— Guardian sport (@guardian_sport) February 17, 2015
De Fanti's comments have left David Moyes unimpressed at the Italian, with the Sunderland boss swiping back, telling the Sunderland Echo:
Well, the first thing I would say is that it is wrong for any agent to talk about players while they are under contract.
When it is someone who we know we're talking about [De Fanti], you'd think that would mean they have even more respect.
It isn't a breach of contract but it certainly isn't the correct way for an agent to do [things].
But aside from irritating the Sunderland manager, the Italian agent has only served to further sour the declining image of the two players who had previously been warmly thought of amongst Sunderland fans - until this season.
Players leaving on relegation is one thing. Rats deserting the sinking ship on the eve of a match in which the club are still, at least publicly, battling for survival is quite another.
When Fabio Borini signed on a permanent basis for Sunderland in the summer of 2015 he did so with a huge swell of public adoration on Wearside after a season on loan a year prior. His exploits at Wembley and in the derby victories of 2014 had ensured his place in Mackem folklore.
Previously renowned for his work-rate and attitude, a dire campaign has unfolded in which the Italian forward has barely struck a bat and supporter patience has finally snapped with Fabio Borini.
If his clear limitations were there for all to see last season, they could be explained away by Borini being deployed out wide and could be glossed over further still by virtue of his patent enthusiasm.
But the 26-year-old has cut a petulant, workshy shadow of his former self in recent months and how he has maintained his place in the side has left many bemoaning Moyes' reluctance to drop him permanently.
Borini has been rotten and aside from perhaps Lamine Kone the former Liverpool man has been easily identifiable as possessing the worst attitude in the Sunderland squad in this dismal campaign.
And with Borini linked to Celtic in recent days and Mannone to Watford, De Fanti's comments will have done little to portray his charges in a positive light in either Glasgow or London either.
Vito Mannone's attitude may have been superior to that of his countryman but the goalkeeper's performances when called upon have been little better.
And perception of the Italian stopper was little aided by a bizarre article written by his some time champion Gianluca Di Marzio recently. The Sky Italia journalist - who has always been close to both Sunderland players - accused David Moyes of making 'false promises' to his goalkeeper and the reporter suggested that Jordan Pickford was only being picked ahead of Mannone to boost the young England goalkeeper's value ahead of a summer sale.
Admittedly Vito Mannone gains huge credit for his visits with certain other members of the Sunderland squad to Bradley Lowery in recent months and the goalkeeper has been far less culpable in stinking out the Stadium of Light than his striker teammate.
But it is a clear indication of just how damaging a meek surrender to relegation can be on a footballer's CV, that neither Watford or Celtic fans appear to have been particularly enamoured at the prospect of landing either of Sunderland's Italian players this summer.
In a devastating put-down of Mannone's prospective move to Vicarage Road, one local Watford newspaper went with this headline earlier today:
'We're focusing on the wrong Sunderland keeper' - Watford fans react to Vito Mannone links - Hertforshire Mercury
And reaction in Glasgow indicates Bhoys supporters are divided at the prospect of Celtic lashing out on Borini, a player who has managed just six goals in two years for Sunderland.
De Fanti has popped up in every transfer window since he took on the interests of Borini and Mannone and each sequence follows the same tedious routine.
First, transfer rumours surrounding the pair will emerge - always in the same Italian outlets - then the agent-turned-director-turned-agent will appear in an interview somewhere - always in the same Italian outlets - to talk up his client's prospects of a move. From there De Fanti will make vaguely certain predictions that either or both of his clients will depart Sunderland at a vaguely certain point in the future.
And give it a few months and the charade will start again. Except this time it almost certainly won't and Sunderland may finally rid itself of the shadow of the man who was such a disaster as Director of Football.
Regardless, with relegation still not confirmed at the Stadium of Light and David Moyes having made it abundantly clear that he has no intention of discussing the futures of any of his playing staff until the point at which the drop is confirmed, the Sunderland manager's comments today ought to have shoved De Fanti back into the box from which he pops twice a year.
Mannone and Borini - thanks for the memories. But few will bemoan the eradication of either the agent or perhaps even his two 'star' clients come the end of the season.