Paulinho has reportedly reached an agreement with Barcelona over a proposed summer transfer, although Guangzhou Evergrande's firm refusal to sell the midfielder mid-season looks set to scupper any deal.
Brazilian Paulinho, regularly lambasted by Tottenham Hotspur supporters during a wretched two-year spell at White Hart Lane between 2013-15, has resurrected his career in the Chinese Super League and last month emerged as a surprise transfer target for new Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde.
The 28-year-old subsequently confirmed that his agent had received an offer from Barcelona, who are looking to suitably bolster their midfield options amid links to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain star Marco Verratti, Manchester United's Ander Herrera and Oriol Romeu of Southampton.
Paulinho has a release clause worth €40m (£35.3m, $45.5m) written into his current deal at Evergrande and over the weekend he appeared to urge Barcelona to make a new offer for his signature after seeing an initial €20m bid rejected.
Catalan publication Sport claimed on Sunday (9 July) that the 41-cap Selecao international, a close friend of Neymar, had "given the OK" to a proposed four-year contract offer from Barcelona that would see him earn approximately €5m-per-season at the Nou Camp - much less than he currently banks in the Far East.
It was stated that Barcelona are expected to return with a new offer, although Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande Group, has now ruled out the prospect of such a key performer leaving the Tianhe Stadium during the middle part of the 2017 campaign. The Chinese transfer window is due to close on Friday (14 July).
No mid-season sale
"We need to not only consider the financial account of the corporation, but also the specific situation of our current campaign," he said in a meeting with players, as reported by Goal. "Paulinho has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity [to join Barcelona] and we attach great importance to this matter. But we won't let him leave mid-season.
"The club have just reached the half-way point of the season, it is out of the question that we let go such a key player. I understand the feelings of Paulinho but hopefully he will understand the club. Despite receiving the offer from Barcelona, he still play each game to the best of his ability. I call on every player to learn from Paulinho's professionalism."
Paulinho has won back-to-back domestic titles, the Asian Champions League and the Chinese FA Cup, since moving to China two summers ago. Manager and compatriot Luiz Felipe Scolari has previously labelled a potential switch to Barcelona as unlikely due to the new financial difficulties involved in sourcing an adequate replacement.
In May, the Chinese Football Association (CFA), in their latest bid to curb irrational spending and promote homegrown players, announced that they would levy a 100% tax on overseas signings for the summer window. For any transfer worth over 45m yuan, clubs are required to match that fee in a donation to the CFA Development Foundation.