Guangzhou Evergrande have denied rumours star man Paulinho is heading for the exit after speculation linked the midfielder with a move to Bayern Munich. Elsewhere, Die Roten are said to be interested in Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek.
Six-time Chinese Super League winners Guangzhou Evergrande released a statement aimed to quieten talk of Paulinho potentially leaving the club for a return to Europe.
Per ESPN FC's Michael Church, it read: "We officially announce that Guangzhou Evergrande has never received an offer for Paulinho. Paulinho signed a contract extension with Guangzhou Evergrande in January 2017 and is a key player in the club's long-term plan."
Last week, French radio station RMC (h/t Football Insider's Alex Stevens) reported Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti had "instructed" Bayern to sign the player.
The move would represent a dramatic turnaround for Paulinho. WhoScored.com's Ben McAleer noted he left Tottenham Hotspur with a tarnished reputation:
Ben McAleer @BenMcAleer1
Spurs have made some pretty poor signings over the years - Paulinho and Soldado spring to mind - but Sissoko is far and away the worst.2017-4-5 20:18:13
Since leaving north London in 2015, however, Paulinho has enjoyed a resurgence at both club level and on the international circuit, starring as one of Brazil's best players over the past year or so.
Bayern already boast a stacked midfield, but with Xabi Alonso and captain Philipp Lahm retiring at the end of this season, it's possible Paulinho has been eyed as a replacement.
The 28-year-old comes highly rated by Brazilian football expert Robbie Blakeley:
Robbie Blakeley @rio_robbie
The best player for #Brazil over these 2 World Cup qualifiers? Paulinho2017-3-29 12:34:18
That being said, with the playmaker set to turn 29 in July, Paulinho may not fancy the idea of risking a guaranteed starting spot in China to compete with the likes of Thiago Alcantara, Arturo Vidal and Renato Sanches. Not to mention the Bundesliga club could struggle to offer the same wages as their Chinese counterparts.
At the least, Guangzhou look likely to do all they can to ensure their talisman remains at the Tianhe Stadium, and Paulinho's international form may continue to improve as long as he's playing to the same level:
FIFA World Cup @FIFAWorldCup
⚽️⚽️⚽️ On Thursday, Paulinho🇧🇷 became the first visiting player to score a hat-trick in 🇺🇾Uruguay in #WCQ 📰➡️https://t.co/BlmBwVlvrv https://t.co/KD9itfx94i2017-3-24 15:08:15
The central midfielder has been one of the key members of Ajax's UEFA Europa League side this season and has consistently featured off the bench in the Eredivisie, drawing intrigue from a raft of European powerhouses, per fan account Dutch Football:
Dutch Football @Foot_Oranje
According to Sport 1 in Germany, Barcelona and Bayern Munich sent scouts to watch Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek on Thursday. https://t.co/RRoywMJWBF2017-4-16 10:08:29
Van de Beek could be another option for Ancelotti to add to his midfield ranks once Lahm and Alonso leave the Allianz Arena, albeit one not as ripe and ready for first-team football as the aforementioned Paulinho.
The 20-year-old made his debut for the Netherlands' under-21 side last October and is only likely to receive more attention in the coming months, although United and Barca will pose stiff competition in Bayern's alleged pursuit.