Borussia Dortmund appear to have suffered a setback in their quest to sign Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel from Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian in the current transfer window.
Dortmund are reportedly eager to activate a 20-million-euro ($23.2m) buy-out clause in Witsel's contract, but Quanjian head coach Paulo Sousa poured cold water on a potential transfer with the World Cup star's deal to run until December 2019.
"I haven't received any information on Witsel's transfer, neither from the club nor the player himself," Sousa told Chinese broadcaster CGTN.
"It is my understanding that the player may have a transfer clause in his contract, but the clause could only be triggered during the transfer window.
"Now that the Chinese transfer window has closed (on July 12), the transfer won't happen.
"I'm convinced that Witsel will be back. He is an integral part of our team."
Quanjian owner Shu Yuhui echoed Sousa's stance in a later interview in the Tianjin media by saying "Witsel will return (to China) on August 5".
According to German media, Witsel is currently on holiday on the Spanish island of Ibiza and is reportedly eager to join Bundesliga side Dortmund, who have qualified for the Champions League for 2018/19.
The deal seemed set to be wrapped up on Monday when Belgian broadcaster RTBF claimed the 29-year-old, who helped Belgium finish third at the World Cup, was already in Dortmund for a medical, which turned out to be untrue.
However, Germany's top-selling daily Bild still expects Witsel to become a Dortmund player in the coming days.
New head coach Lucien Favre is reportedly eager to include him in a new-look Dortmund midfield alongside Germany midfielder Julian Weigl and new signing Thomas Delaney, who has joined from Werder Bremen.
Axel Witsel, seen here celebrating Belgium finishing third at the World Cup in Russia, has been heavily linked to a move to Borussia Dortmund, but his current club Tianjin Quanjian expect him back in training next week.