Guangzhou Evergrande have dismissed claims they are close to completing a mega-money move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as "completely groundless" after the Chinese Super League threatened action against any club entering into a bidding war for the Borussia Dortmund striker.
Reports in China over the weekend suggested Guangzhou had beaten CSL counterparts Beijing Guoan to Aubameyang's signature, with a €72million deal in place to complete the transfer at the end of the Bundesliga season.
Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke refused to comment on the latest speculation regarding the Gabon international's future but the CSL issued a robust statement on Tuesday warning Guangzhou and Beijing Guoan against pursuing a deal that would contravene league spending regulations – prompting a similarly strong response from the former club.
"The story of Guangzhou Evergrande FC buying an active Bundesliga player with a transfer fee significantly higher than the maximum limit set by CFA's regulatory rules is completely groundless," an official statement read.
"The Bundesliga club involved have clearly denied the rumours during interviews with German media. Guangzhou Evergrande will continue to strictly obey the CFA's regulations on player transfers.
"We reserve the right to take legal action against any news outlets who had published such untrue stories."
Spiralling spending last year, when the likes of Carlos Tevez, Oscar, Hulk and Jackson Martinez all moved to China, prompted the CSL to put restrictions in place and limited the number of overseas players who could be on the field at any given time for each team to three.
"The news of two clubs sparking a bidding war over a foreign player surfaced on the internet recently and drew national attention," read the CSL statement on the Aubameyang saga.
"The Chinese Football Association attach great importance to it and have sent letters to the two clubs to ask them to explain the situation.
"An inquiry will be launched into the matter and any violations will be severely dealt with according to the extant laws.
"The Chinese Football Association will continue to charge regulatory fees for player transfers, so as to curb irrational investment by clubs and provide a more just and healthy environment for the development of Chinese professional football leagues.
"We will pay close attention to the transfer activities of domestic clubs in the upcoming season and step up efforts to scrutinise their actions.
"Any breach of regulations will be severely punished. There will be no tolerance."