In a statement posted to its Weibo social media account late Thursday, the team said “so far we haven’t communicated with Diego Costa about the transfer matter”.
The comment followed reports by Spanish newspaper Cadena Ser that the Brazil-born Spanish forward had arranged a 30 million euro annual salary as part of the deal.
Coached by Italy’s World Cup champion Fabio Cannavaro, Tianjin has tried to fill its roster with foreign talent in preparation for its move to the Tier One Super League following its triumph in the second-tier China League One.
Armed with a considerable war chest, Tianjin tried to land Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Manchester United icon Wayne Rooney, and has been tied 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 German side FC Cologne.
Instead Tianjin ended up with Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel for 20 million euros, out-of-favour former Brazil wonderkid Pato for 18 million and Junior Moraes on loan from Dynamo Kiev.
The hunt for foreign footballing talent comes as China seeks to raise the national game to a level more befitting of Beijing’s status as a world power.
President Xi Jinping has said that he wants to see the country host and eventually win a World Cup, a tough challenge for a national side that has consistently hovered in the low 70s in the FIFA rankings.
But the pronouncement has seen the country’s top companies and richest entrepreneurs rush to pick up stakes in overseas clubs and buy foreign players to curry favour with the government, as well as fans.