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Barcelona begin spending spree with Paulinho

Brazil’s Paulinho pictured during a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay in Montevideo on March 23, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain, Aug 14- Barcelona made Brazilian international midfielder Paulinho their first signing since banking a world record fee for Neymar on Monday after agreeing a Sh4.9bn ($47 million) fee with Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

“Barcelona and Guangzhou Evergrande have reached an agreement for the transfer of the player Paulinho Bezerra for 40 million euros,” Barca said in a statement.

The 29-year-old has signed a four-year deal with a Sh14.7bn (120 million-euro) buyout clause and will be formally presented on Thursday.

The announcement of Barca’s third signing of the summer transfer window after Gerard Deulofeu and Nelson Semedo came just hours after the Catalans suffered a 3-1 home defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup first leg on Sunday.

Midfielder Sergio Busquets had put pressure on the club’s board by claiming Barca had to strengthen their squad before the transfer window closes on August 31.

Barca have so far been unsuccessful in their attempts to land a more natural replacement for Neymar with huge bids for Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele being rejected by Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

“I hope you are as happy as I was there,” Neymar wrote on Instagram to wish his international teammate well.

However, Paulinho’s arrival has not been warmly received by the Barca fanbase.

Over 80 percent of fans urged the club not to sign him for over 20 million euros in a survey conducted by Barcelona sports daily Mundo Deportivo.

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That lack of enthusiasm is due to Paulinho’s chequered career at club level in Europe.

After spells in Lithuania and Poland as a teenager, Paulinho moved to Tottenham Hotspur from Corinthians in 2013.

Yet he failed to shine in two years in England before moving to Guangzhou in 2015 for 14 million euros.

However, he has rebuilt his career in China and 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 back in March.

And Paulinho’s former coach at Tottenham, Andre Villas-Boas, believes his move to Barca is a huge boost for the prestige of the Chinese Super League.

“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,” said Shanghai SIPG coach Villas-Boas.

“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.”

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