The visit of a Chinese billionaire club owner to Real Madrid has sparked wild rumours in Spain, with talk that Dani Carvajal could be on his way to China Super League team Guangzhou Evergrande in exchange for homegrown international star defender Zhang Linpeng.
Joaquin Maroto of AS wrote Los Blancos president Florentino Perez met with Guangzhou supremo Xu Jiayin as he arrived in the Spanish capital, prompting speculation from the Chinese press about a swap deal in January.
The two clubs already have existing ties, with the China club running a soccer school staffed with Spaniards who have Real connections, per Maroto. Xu is one of the wealthiest people in his country, and it is natural he is attracted to the brand of the Galacticos—and forming a relationship with Perez.
Maroto also reported Xu met the major players at Madrid, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, as the businessman made himself familiar with most of the first team.
However, it is debatable whether a move to the Chinese Super League would suit a player of Carvajal's standing and age, with the right-back good enough to play for Europe's biggest club sides.
The Spain international responded to the prospect of a swap deal, per AS Diario (h/t James Cambridge of the Express), and attempted to kill off the speculation: "I have read those reports and my first reaction was to laugh. It's a funny story, but not true. This is my home and I'm very happy here."
Italian website TuttoMercatoWeb.com (h/t Rhys Turrell of the Daily Star) recently linked the Madrid defender with a possible move to Chelsea as former Madrid coach Jose Mourinho looks to shuffle the pack at Stamford Bridge.
Branislav Ivanovic has fallen out of favour in the Special One's long-term plans, with Carvajal fitting the bill as a replacement.
But despite the player's reputation, he has struggled against La Liga's best talent in the past 12 months, as highlighted by football writer Sergi Dominguez:
As Carvajal confirms, the thought of him leaving Madrid for a move to an inferior league is laughable.
However, if Chelsea do show a genuine interest in the player, he could be tempted with a transfer to the Premier League champions—to play for a coach he knows well.
Zhang is an emerging talent, and he is sure to end up in Europe in the coming months. The defender is nicknamed "Zhangmos" due to his style of play being similar to that of Sergio Ramos, and he is a cultured centre-back who needs to move up to a higher echelon.
This swap deal never had reality on its side, but it will not be surprising to see one of the Far East's superstar players become a Galactico.
Zhang's Madrid shirt would surely become the biggest selling shirt in China and Asia, as Real's appeal stretches further than it ever has before.