Brazil international Paulinho’s imminent move to Barcelona from Guangzhou Evergrande is proof of the strength of the Chinese Super League (CSL), Shanghai SIPG coach Andre Villas-Boas said.
The 29-year-old midfielder Paulinho is reportedly poised to sign for the Spanish giants for 40 million euros and he could be unveiled as a Barcelona player as early as Monday.
Paulinho would be Barcelona’s first signing since losing Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record 222-million-euro move.
Paulinho and Villas-Boas were together at Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 and the Portuguese coach told reporters on Sunday that the player’s move to Spain “is good news for Chinese football”.
“Because Paulinho’s come here, he’s done ever so well and now he has a transfer to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
“I think it shows that the big clubs are also looking at our league. It’s a reflection of the players and the quality of work that is being done here.”
Barcelona have remained tight-lipped about Paulinho, who failed to shine during two years in the Premier League at Tottenham before moving to Guangzhou in 2015.
However, he has established himself as a regular in a rejuvenated Brazil side since the appointment of Tite as coach a year ago, most notably scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 win away to Uruguay in World Cup qualifying in March.
He played a significant part in Evergrande winning the CSL last season and lifting the AFC Champions League in 2015, and he leaves them five points clear of Shanghai SIPG in the league.
Paulinho did not feature in Sunday’s 2-1 home win over Henan Jianye and captain Zheng Zhi says the Brazilian will be a major loss, especially with teams unable to bring in any replacements because the Chinese mid-season transfer window is closed.
“I think at this stage of the season it is unlikely we can add more people,” said Zheng.
“We will miss our main player and it will impact the team. But no matter what, we give our blessings to Paulinho.”
Villas-Boas’s SIPG stayed second in the CSL after beating Chongqing Lifan 3-2 late on Sunday.