HONG KONG (Reuters) - Luiz Felipe Scolari has denied reports of a rift between himself and Guangzhou Evergrande’s Paulinho as Spanish media continue to question the midfielder’s future with the Chinese Super League club.
The 28-year-old has been the subject of several unsuccessful bids by Barcelona following a strong run of form for both his club and Brazil.
Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported that Scolari had removed Paulinho from training earlier in the week due to a lack of focus in light of Barcelona’s attempts to buy him, but the World Cup-winning coach said the reports were incorrect.
“Paulinho has been training throughout the whole week and you saw how he played in today’s game too,” said Scolari after Guangzhou’s 2-1 win over Shandong Luneng in the Chinese Super League on Saturday.
”I saw the report, it said I kicked Paulinho out of the training session. Actually, I sent Paulinho, Yu Hanchao and Li Xuepeng out to rest, but they only saw Paulinho.
“If they don’t think Paulinho is a professional player and that he would treat the game with such a negative attitude, they are beyond naive.”
Paulinho joined Guangzhou from Tottenham Hotspur in June 2015, helping the club to the Asian Champions League and two Chinese Super League titles.
His form for Guangzhou saw him recalled to the Brazil national team and he scored a hat trick in a 4-1 win over Uruguay in March.
Guangzhou chairman Xu Jiayin has already said he was not for sale this season.
Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Greg Stutchbury