GUANGZHOU, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Brazilian midfielder Paulinho bid farewell to Chinese Super League (CSL) Guangzhou FC, the club and player both announced on Sunday.
"Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, Paulinho has been unable to join up with the club and perform the contract.
"After a friendly consultation, the club and the player decided to terminate the contract," the club said in an announcement.
The 33-year-old followed the footsteps of another Brazilian Anderson Talisca, who left Guangzhou last month and signed for Saudi Arabia's Al Nassr with a three-year contract.
"Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have to say goodbye to Guangzhou FC. I feel very sad, but I am expecting that one day I will come back to see all of you.
"I want you to know that you are always in my heart. Thank you Guangzhou! Thank you China!" Paulinho said on social media.
The former Barcelona midfielder, along with Talisca, had been unable to join up with Fabio Cannavaro's squad this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions placed on travel into China from Brazil.
The Brazilian scored 74 goals in 176 matches for Guangzhou. He won the AFC Champions League in 2015 and the CSL title three times with the team.
Chinese fans have been expressing their feelings of reluctance all night and "Paulinho leaves Guangzhou FC" hit the top search on Weibo.
"Don't worry about the road ahead, who doesn't know you in the world?" a fan said on Weibo, quoting a famous Chinese poem.
The Brazilian duo's departure could be a hit to the league that has been losing its big names since last year. But it will also bring huge financial relief for Guangzhou FC under a harsh salary cap policy.
Last December, the Chinese Football Association announced the strictest ever expenditure and salary cap in all levels of professional leagues. A CSL club may only spend a maximum total of 600 million yuan (about 91.44 million U.S. dollars) every year.