Paulinho is set to fly to Barcelona on Sunday from Chinese Super League leaders Guangzhou Evergrande after they activated the former Tottenham midfielder’s €40 million buyout clause, according to multiple reports in China.
Chinese media reported on Saturday evening that the 29-year-old Brazilian would travel to Spain to complete the move after Barcelona triggered his release. Ernesto Valverde’s side are looking to bolster their squad following the world record €222m sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain last week.
Paulinho has been linked with a move to Barcelona throughout the summer but Evergrande chairman Xu Jiayin had previously stated he would not be allowed to leave before the end of the season due to the cost associated in replacing him.
The ex-Corinthians star has been a key figure for Evergrande this season, with his goals vital in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side retaining their position at the top of the league as well as progressing to the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League.
The move could prove problematic for Guangzhou, who lead the league by five points from Shanghai SIPG. With the Chinese Super League’s transfer window closing in mid-July, they will be unable to sign a replacement.
“We don’t want him to go but I’m happy for him as it’s a chance of a lifetime,” an unnamed Guangzhou payer was quoted on sina.com.
“It is Barcelona. I’m happy for him as we have been brothers for the last two years.”
At a news conference to preview the Spanish Super Cup game against Real Madrid, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde attempted to sidestep talk of Paulinho’s arrival by saying he had not been informed of it.
“I don’t have any proof of anything,” Valverde said. “Lots of players’ names are mentioned for lots of clubs and it will be like that until Aug. 31. For the moment there is nothing, or at least not that I’ve been informed of.
“I have a feeling that Paulinho will not be playing [on Sunday against Real Madrid].”
“I have no knowledge of what players could come or of what goes on at other teams,” he said. “I don’t worry about that as I have enough on my plate.The names that surface are not anyone’s stated requests.”
Michael Church has written about Asian football for more than 20 years and mainly covers the Chinese game for ESPN FC. Twitter: @michaelrgchurch