Barcelona target Paulinho not leaving during season - Evergrande chairman

Guangzhou Evergrande will deny Paulinho the opportunity to join Barcelona until the end of the Chinese Super League season as the reigning champions continue their push for success on three fronts.

The two-time Asian champions lead the league by a point over Shanghai SIPG and are also due to meet their big-spending rivals in the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League next month.

And Evergrande chairman Xu Jiayin has ruled out the prospect of the 28-year-old Brazil international leaving the club until the end of the season, with Guangzhou also seeking to defend the Chinese FA Cup the club won last year.

"Regarding Paulinho, there is nothing to discuss until the end of the season," said Xu. "We completely understand his feelings, however we hope he can understand the club's situation. We can't just let a core player go in the middle of a tough season.

"Now we are halfway through the season and, although we need to consider our financial situation, we also need to take the team's situation into account.

"It is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Paulinho and there has been lots of attention on it. However, in midseason it is impossible. We can't let things like this happen."

Paulinho has been in impressive form this season, scoring 11 times in 25 games in all competitions for Guangzhou. His play has earned him a recall to the Brazil national team, where he played a key part in his country's successful qualification for next year's World Cup finals in Russia.

Barcelona are reported to have offered €20 million for Paulinho, with Guangzhou coach Luiz Felipe Scolari sidestepping questions about his compatriot's future following Saturday's league defeat by Beijing Guoan.

Paulinho was quoted by media in Spain saying he hoped to push the move through before the end of the week, when the Chinese Super League transfer window closes, to ensure Guangzhou could sign a replacement.

But with huge levies now being imposed on big-money foreign signings by the Chinese football authorities, Guangzhou's hopes of acquiring a player of similar quality to Paulinho are slim in a transfer window that has seen little activity since it opened last month.

Despite the continuing saga over his future, Xu hailed Paulinho's continued focus on performing for his current employers.

"Although Barcelona have offered a fee, Paulinho has been training professionally and playing very well," said Xu.

"This is what we call professionalism and I hope every Evergrande player can learn from him."