FC Barcelona have reached an agreement to sign Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million.
Paulinho is due in Barcelona later this week, where he will undergo a medical on Thursday before being presented as the club’s fourth signing of the summer following the transfers of Marlon Santos, Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo.
The 29-year-old is the first to join since Neymar left Barcelona to move to Paris Saint-Germain for a record €222m, and the superstar gave his countryman his blessing on the move.
“My friend, all the success in the world for you. I hope you will be very happy there, as I was. I’m with you,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.
Barcelona fixed the Brazi international’s release clause at €120m and he will sign a four-year contract on Thursday.
The club have been pursuing a deal since last month and had hoped to negotiate a cheaper fee with Guangzhou.
However, the Chinese Super League champions refused to lower their demands, rejecting increasing bids starting from €20m, and Barcelona have eventually agreed to pay their asking price.
Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari confirmed Paulinho’s departure on Sunday and said the move reflects positively on his club.
“The high price paid by Barcelona in order to sign him is a strong recognition of Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club,” he said.
Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas says the deal represents an important sign for the development of Chinese football in general.
“Losing Paulinho is a loss for Evergrande, but it is a good thing for Chinese football,” he said. “It proves that the world’s leading clubs are paying attention to the Chinese Super League.”
Paulinho moved to China from Tottenham in 2015 in a deal worth €14m, having originally come to prominence in his homeland with Corinthians.
Barca were interested in the player when he left Brazil for England but never took their interest to the next level.
With the signing of Paulinho, new coach Ernesto Valverde now has 11 players, including Barca B’s Carles Alena, who can play in midfield.
Therefore, there are expected to be departures before the end of the month, with Sergi Samper, Andre Gomes, Rafinha and Arda Turan the players most likely to be allowed to leave.
Meanwhile, Barca remain hopeful of doing further deals with the money they made from Neymar’s move to PSG.
Philippe Coutinho has been left out of Liverpool’s Champions League squad for their Champions League trip to Hoffenheim this week after he handed in a transfer request in a bid to force through a move to the Camp Nou.
And Barca’s other target, Ousmane Dembele, is currently suspended by Borussia Dortmund after missing training last week.
Barca have had bids turned down by Liverpool and Dortmund for both players but are expected to return with new offers this week.