Shock as Brazil World Cup star Paulinho returns to Guangzhou Evergrande after one season at Barcelona

Midfielder comes back to help former club retain their domestic crown after 11 months and one league title in Spain

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 10:34am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 July, 2018, 10:34am

Paulinho has returned to Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande from Spanish Primera Liga champions Barcelona.

The midfielder was an important part of the Catalan side’s championship season, scoring nine times in 49 games, but has opted for a return to Guangzhou.

Speculation of a return had been stoked by the 29-year-old speaking of an offer from China after Brazil’s loss to Belgium in the World Cup quarter-final on Friday.

Nevertheless, there has been some surprise at the speed of the deal, which was confirmed late on Sunday.

Paulinho played in all of Brazil’s five games in Russia, scoring one goal.

The transfer has been confirmed on the CSL club’s official website, but only on the Chinese version and not the English-language portal.

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Initial reports suggest that the deal is a loan with an obligation to buy for 50 million (US$58.8 million, HK$461.4 million), 10 million more than the fee the Brazilian left for 11 months ago.

Paulinho recently spoke of his fondness for the club and his time in China in an article on the Players’ Tribune website and was equally effusive on his return to the club.

“The level of the Super League has improved year by year and the development prospects are very good,” he told the club website.

“After training in Evergrande and Barcelona, and following the Brazilian national team in the World Cup, I got a good experience. I chose to return to the Super League this time, hoping to bring more championships to Guangzhou and Guangzhou fans.”

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Paulinho also spoke of his hope to make the league more “exciting”.

Fabio Cannavaro’s side resume their fight for an eighth title-in-a-row in fifth place, five points behind league leaders Shanghai SIPG.

The Brazilian was a success during his time at Evergrande, winning the league twice and the AFC Champions League once in his two years there.

The CSL has had two months off for an extended summer break and games begin on July 17.

Champions Evergrande restart against Guizhou Zicheng at home on Wednesday July 18.

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That game could be a debut for Paulinho and fellow new signing Talisca, who also came in during this summer’s transfer window as part of the owner’s promised shake-up for the underperforming side.

The 24-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder joined the club from Portuguese runners-up Benfica and was reportedly wanted by Manchester United before opting for the CSL.