HONG KONG, July 11 (Reuters) - Barcelona target Paulinho has been told by his Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande that he will not be allowed to leave until the end of the season.
Paulinho helped Guangzhou to their second Asian Champions League crown in 2015 and has won two CSL titles as well as reclaiming his place in the Brazil national team since moving to Evergrande from the English Premier League.
Barcelona have reportedly offered 20 million euros ($22.79 million) for the 28-year-old former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder.
“Regarding Paulinho, there is nothing to discuss until the end of the season,” Chinese media quoted Evergrande chairman Xi Jiayin as saying.
”We completely understand his feelings, however, we hope he can understand the club’s situation. We can’t just let a core player go in the middle of a tough season.
“It is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Paulinho and there has been lots of attention on it. However, in midseason it is impossible.”
The CSL wraps up on Nov. 4 but Guangzhou’s season could run until Nov. 25 if they reach the Asian Champions League final.
Despite the uncertainty, Xi hailed Paulinho’s professionalism.
“Although Barcelona have offered a fee, Paulinho has been training professionally and playing very well,” he said.
Paulinho has been the club’s standout performer so far this season, scoring 11 times in 24 games in all competitions as Guangzhou again qualified for the quarter-finals of the continental championship and sit top of the CSL standings.
He was quoted in the Spanish media on Monday saying he would ask Guangzhou to allow him to join Barcelona but with regulations on signing foreign players tightened recently, and the CSL’s transfer window due to close on Friday, Guangzhou are unlikely to grant his request. ($1 = 0.8775 euros) (Reporting by Michel Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Editing by Peter Rutherford)