Another High-Profile Player Leaves CSL Amid Links To Free Barcelona Transfer

HONG KONG - Beijing Guoan posted a farewell message to Cédric Bakambu on their social media account on Tuesday, with the Congolese striker becoming the latest high-profile foreign player to leave the Chinese Super League.

Bakambu, who has been linked with a January move to Barcelona, has been with the club since signing from Villarreal before the start of the 2018 CSL campaign.

The 30-year-old France-born forward's contract is due to expire at the end of the year.

"We cherish your name in our hearts — Cédric Bakambu," said the post on the club's Weibo account. "Hope you never forget."

Bakambu was named on UEFA's squad of the season for the 2015-16 Europa League before joining Beijing in January 2018 after the club paid his $45.18 million release clause. During his time in China, he scored 58 goals in 87 games and helped Beijing win the Chinese FA Cup in 2018 before finishing the 2020 season as the league's top scorer.

Beijing have already signed a replacement ahead of the resumption of the league later next month, with Brazilian forward Anderson Silva joining from Famalicão in Portugal.

Bakambu is one of several high-profile foreign players and coaches to leave the league amid growing financial difficulties and China's strict pandemic quarantine and travel restrictions. Eight-time champions Guangzhou FC saw coach Fabio Cannavaro and talismanic midfielder Paulinho depart earlier in the year while Marko Arnautović left Shanghai Port to join Bologna in Italy.

Beijing, who are coached by former West Bromwich Albion manager Slaven Bilić, are due to return to action in the league's championship rounds next month. Play was stopped in mid-August to help the Chinese national team prepare for the final phase of Asia's World Cup qualifiers.

(Reporting by Michael Church and Albee Zhang, Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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