SHANGHAI: China's Tianjin Quanjin appear to have shut the door on a rumoured megamoney swoop for Chelsea's Diego Costa or any other "excessive" spending, amid a government crackdown on high-priced foreign imports.
The Brazilian-born Spain striker has since January been the subject of repeated speculation that he could join Super League club Tianjin when China's summer transfer window opens next month and become the latest in a wave of big-money foreign signings.
Tianjin issued a statement saying they have "had no communications or negotiations in any form with Diego Costa or his agent team regarding a transfer."
Echoing the official talking points of China's spending crackdown, the statement said the club would base any future transfers on the "sustainable development" of the Chinese Super League.
"(We) will not engage in any sort of unhealthy competition and will put a stop to any excessive pricing," said the statement, issued Tuesday.
Various reports have speculated in recent months that a deal was brewing to pay Chelsea's Costa tens of millions of dollars per year.
Coached by Italy's World Cup champion Fabio Cannavaro, Tianjin have foreign talent to challenge for the Super League title but have so far failed to strike any mega-deals.
Armed with a considerable war chest, they have tried to land Borussia Dortmund's highly-rated striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester United icon Wayne Rooney.
They have also been linked to a 60-million-euro bid for Monaco's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao and a 50-million-euro approach for France's Anthony Modeste, who plays for Germany's FC Cologne.
Instead Tianjin ended up with players such as Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel for 20 million euros and out-of-favour former Brazilian boy wonder Pato for 18 million euros.
President Xi Jinping has expressed hope of China hosting and eventually winning a World Cup, a big ask for a national side now ranked just 81 in the world.
The country's top companies and richest entrepreneurs have responded by rushing to buy stakes in overseas clubs and import foreign players in a series of record-breaking transfers, including Chelsea midfielder Oscar's Asian-record, 60-million-euro move to Shanghai SIPG this season.
But the flood of cash prompted a backlash from authorities worried about larger issues of irresponsible spending in China's economy as growth slows, and the government this season placed new restrictions on club spending and reduced the number of foreign players they can have in their squads.