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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian distanced themselves on Tuesday from a move for Chelsea striker Diego Costa when the league's transfer window opens next month.
The Brazil-born Spain international has been consistently linked to the Fabio Cannavaro-coached club since the turn of the year and speculation has intensified that Tianjin will seek to sign the 28-year-old this summer.
But in a statement issued on the club's website, Tianjin denied they had been in contact with Costa's representatives and said they would not allow themselves to be dragged into a bidding war for any foreign player.
"Regarding the rumours and reports that Tianjin Quanjian's summer transfer plan is to buy Diego Costa, we hereby clarify the following: During the past six months the club has not communicated with Diego Costa or his agent regarding his transfer to Tianjin Quanjian," the statement said.
"Our strategy of bringing new players to the club is based on the general principal of providing entertainment and sustainable development. We have no intention of becoming involved in any unhealthy competition and, consequently, paying a premium price."
Tianjin added Brazil international Alexandre Pato and Belgium's Axel Witsel to their squad after winning the Chinese second division last year but have won just three games this season and are seventh, 12 points adrift of leaders Guangzhou Evergrande.
Cannavaro recently complained about his team's lack of a top-class striker and reports in Europe have suggested Tianjin would seek to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund.
However, the statement also claimed the club do not intend to follow the example of Shanghai SIPG and Shanghai Shenhua by paying inflated fees in the transfer market, preferring instead to focus on youth development.
"The 2017 season is our debut season in the CSL," Tianjin said. "While focussing on enhancing the quality of our own football, we are also working hard to contribute to a healthy environment for Chinese football.
"That means we want to have world-class players playing in China for entertainment purposes and to make the CSL attractive not only to Chinese fans but also to football fans all over the world. On the other hand, we have to have a fair environment and not bring top players with only money.
"Tianjin Quanjian also cares about China's youth football system. That can be seen from our investment in Tianjin's youth system and our football development campus, which we see as our responsibility. Tianjin Quanjian will consistently seek to contribute to Chinese football."
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Neil Robinson