Paulinho’s Barcelona switch unlikely due to new Chinese Super League player tax rules, says Guangzhou Evergrande boss Luiz Felipe Scolari
Brazilian midfielder admits Spanish side have made an offer, but new player tax rules in China designed to limit foreign signings complicate any potential deal
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari admits China’s new tax on foreign players means Guangzhou Evergrande will likely resist a bid from Spanish side Barcelona for Brazilian midfielder Paulinho – because the Super League leaders will struggle to afford a suitable replacement.
Paulinho has thrived in China after signing a four-year contract with Guangzhou in June 2015 following a €14 million (HK$122m) switch from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
The 28-year-old is now also a key member in the Brazil squad, and his exploits have caught the attentions of the Spanish giants, with Paulinho admitting in an interview with Brazilian publication Globo Esporte that Barcelona have made an offer.
But after Chinese officials introduced a tax on foreign signings which effectively doubles the price of any player, Guangzhou would be reluctant to part company with their influential midfielder midway through the season.
Scolari’s side are top of the Super League (CSL) and in the quarter-finals of both the AFC Champions League (ACL) and FA Cup.
“His release clause costs 40 million euros and none of the Chinese clubs will let their key players go now because it would be difficult and expensive to find a replacement due to the new rules,” said Scolari.
Having endured a disappointing spell in England with Tottenham following his reported £17m (HK$170m) move from Corinthians, Paulinho has established himself as a key player under compatriot Scolari, winning the AFC Champions League in 2015 as well as the last two editions of the Super League and the 2016 FA Cup.
He also returned to the national team last year and has featured heavily as Brazil qualified for the 2018 Fifa World Cup with four games to spare, with Paulinho starting March’s last two qualifiers against Uruguay and Paraguay and netting a hat-trick in the 4-1 away win in Montevideo.
Latest Chinese Super League transfer rules could force clubs to think twice before splashing the cash
“[Barcelona] contacted my agent. There is an offer, but in life and also in my career I find myself at a very happy stage now. When you are at such a stage, it’s difficult to make a decision,” Paulinho told Globo Esporte.
“I need to weigh many things and then make up my mind. One of the critical factors is my happiness. I think firstly my wife and I are very happy in China, we like it here and we like the people.
“Secondly I’ve gained self-confidence here. I’ve won the CSL, ACL and CFA Cup, so I really don’t know how to make a choice. I’m very happy a club like Barca is interested in me though, I think it’s priceless.”
The Chinese summer transfer window opened last week, but unlike at the start of the season when Brazilian Oscar and Argentinian Carlos Tevez arrived, clubs in China have yet to make a single major acquisition, largely down to the new rules.
Now, any club judged to be in debt that spends more than 45 million yuan (HK$51.6m) on a foreign player, or 20 million yuan on a domestic signing, will have to pay the same amount to a football development foundation under the control of the Chinese Football Association.
A club which spends less will still need to pay the registration fee, but it will be returned to be spent on their youth academy as officials seek to stop clubs from paying inflated transfer fees for players.
“I’ve discussed with my agent, but I haven’t set a deadline to give my answer. I talk to my agent almost every other day and Barca will hold talks with Evergrande, but it mainly depends on my answer,” added Paulinho.
“I will make my decision as soon as possible. If I decide to stay they can move on to other players. If I decide to leave, Evergrande can find a replacement.”
Guangzhou maintained their four-point lead at the top of the Super League at the weekend after Scolari’s side beat Hebei CFFC 2-0 at home, while second-place Shanghai SIPG recorded a 4-1 win over Henan Jianye.