Guangzhou Evergrande have reportedly told Barcelona they will need to meet Paulinho's €40m (£35.2m, $44.8m) release clause if they want to lure the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder to the Nou Camp. However, Sport claims the La Liga giants will start the bidding at €20m with hope of completing the deal for around €25m.

Last week broke news that the Brazil international had been emerged as a surprising target for Barcelona ahead of the upcoming 2017-18 season. The Catalans are reportedly trying to sign Marco Verratti from Paris Saint-Germain to strengthen their midfield, but the story added that they were also in negotiations to sign Neymar's compatriot.

Guangzhou manager Luiz Felipe Scolari tried to play down those rumours, stating that Paulinho was going nowhere.

"Paulinho is not going to move from Guangzhou Evergrande and, for those who do not know it, he has a €40m release clause," Scolari said to Mundo Deportivo. "At this moment it is not easy for any Chinese team to let an important player go because it is difficult and very expensive to sign a replacement due to new tax rates."

However, the former Tottenham flop confirmed over the weekend that Barcelona had made him an offer to return to Europe.

"There has been contact with my agent," he said. "There was an offer and I know that we are talking. I am currently at a very happy stage of my life and my career. It is difficult to decide [what to do] at a moment like this. I am very happy that a great club like Barcelona is interested in me, as that is priceless."

Sport now says Barcelona face a difficult task to complete his signing after Guangzhou made it clear they will demand Paulinho's full €40m release clause to part ways with the midfielder.

The Spanish publication suggests the Catalans will not consider paying that fee for a player who only cost Guangzhou around €14m when they signed him from Spurs two summers ago.

Barcelona are said to be considering making a first offer of €20m in order to complete the deal for around €25m.

The Spaniards' interest in Paulinho came as a surprise last week amid suggestions he could be an alternative signing to Verratti.

Paulinho moved to the Chinese Super League in 2015. Getty

However, Sport explains that Barcelona want to sign the ex-Spurs midfielder regardless of what happens with Verratti – as he is not a plan B but a real target.

The PSG star is seen as a potential long-term replacement for 33-year-old Andres Iniesta, while the versatile Paulinho could provide balance from a deeper role.

Barcelona appointed Ernesto Valverde as their new manager following the departure of Luis Enrique, but they are yet to make any major additions. They have made Marlon Santos' loan move from Fluminense permanent with a view to promoting the centre-back to the first team to replace out-of-favour Jeremy Mathieu.