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Daniel Levy does the impossible: he's getting his money back on a high-priced failure

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A buyer for Paulinho emerges from the most unexpected place.

Jan Kruger/Getty Images

When Tottenham Hotspur broke their transfer record to sign Paulinho two summers ago, the move was almost universally hailed. The star of both the Brazilian national team and the Club World Cup was going to be a powerful presence in the center of the park and probably also provide Lampardesque goal-scoring with runs from deep. The runs from deep happened, but Paulinho never settled in to the rigors of EPL midfield play, and he was relegated to the bench and some sporadic 20-minute runs at attacking midfield positions. He's since been dropped by Brazil from their Copa America squad. There is no way that Tottenham could get their money back for a failure this spectacular.

Or not. According to report by Diego Garcia and Vladimir Bianchini at ESPN Brazil, Daniel Levy is about to do the impossible. Here's how it's supposed to be going down.

Luiz Felipe Scolari, after being sacked for his embarrassing failure at the World Cup, took a job in China with the Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club. With Tottenham looking to sell and Scolari having an established relationship with Paulinho, whom he gave that starting role with the Seleçao, the connections were in place. Garcia and Bianchini report that Paulinho has already agreed personal term with Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club and a fee is settled for Tottenham. All that remains is paperwork.

Conforme apuração do ESPN.com.br , o jogador já acertou com a equipe da China as bases salariais para defender os asiáticos a partir do próximo semestre, faltando apenas resolver os últimos trâmites contratuais e assinar a documentação.

If this story is true, it should be confirmed elsewhere very quickly. Right now the ESPN Brazil report is the only one out there, but given that the connections were made through Scolari, it's not implausible that the Brazilian press would get the scoop. By the end of today or tomorrow we should know whether and to what degree they got it right.

The story on the fee is a little bit confusing. Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club will pay Tottenham €15m. I don't think anyone would complain if Levy got £10.7m for Paulinho but it's possible he's done even better than that. Here's how the report reads:

Se confirmada, a compra deve girar na casa dos 15 milhões de euros, ou R$ 52 milhões, mesmo valor pago pelo Tottenham quando tirou Paulinho do Corinthians, em 2013.

It says that the fee will be about the same as what Tottenham paid to Corinthians in 2013. But that fee was reported by the Guardian at £17m, not £10.7m. However, the fee was indeed R$52m in Brazilian real. The Brazilian real has dropped massively against the pound in the last couple of years. In the summer of 2013 it was trading at about three real to the pound, and now it's up to about five. So Spurs did indeed pay R$52m for Paulinho, but if they were paid today the same R$52m, it would be a loss of about 40 percent on the initial sale.

I think it's likely there's an error here. Tottenham won't be paying Guangzhou Evergrande Football Club using Brazilian currency. So if the fee is £10.7m, that's not the same amount that Spurs paid in 2013. But possibly the mistake is different. Possibly the reporters learned that Tottenham will recoup their initial payment, and they reported that initial payment in reals instead of pounds. So it's possible that Levy has done not the improbable of getting a good fee for Paulinho, but the absolutely impossible of getting all of the club's money back.