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Aubameyang deal dead as China champions vow to focus on youth

Shanghai (AFP) – Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande appear to have ended any interest in Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang after a public dressing-down by football authorities in the country.

The club coached by Italian legend Fabio Cannavaro had reportedly won a 72-million-euro tug-of-war with Chinese Super League (CSL) rivals Beijing Guoan for the Gabon hotshot.

But on Tuesday, the Chinese Football Association (CFA) warned the two clubs — without naming them or Aubameyang — against “engaging in a bidding war” and said that its prohibitive 100 percent tax on incoming foreign players would be strictly enforced.

CSL champions Evergrande consequently denied that they were pursuing the 28-year-old — though they too did not name him — and on Wednesday reiterated that they want to field an all-Chinese team within two years.

“We resolutely refrain from buying foreign players for big money and engaging in any competition for (the services of) foreign players, and we are shifting the focus of our work to cultivating youngsters,” said the latest Evergrande statement.

The club, which won a seventh CSL title on the bounce in October, added that it was striving “to gradually achieve the goal of an all-Chinese team by 2020 in an attempt to contribute to the stable, healthy and sustainable development of Chinese football.”

Beijing Guoan have remained tight-lipped about any attempt to snare Aubameyang, but Chinese media previously reported that Evergrande had trumped the club from the capital with a 20 percent higher offer for the unsettled striker.

Any deal now appears dead and the Evergrande statement is firmly in line with the Chinese government’s attempts to rein in spending on big-money foreign players in favour of investing in local talent instead.

Champions Evergrande ended last season six points ahead of second-placed Shanghai SIPG, which a year ago broke the Asian transfer record when they splashed out 60 million euros on attacking midfielder Oscar from Chelsea. 

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