(Reuters) - Chinese champions Guangzhou Evergrande said they allowed top scorer Elkeson to join Shanghai SIPG in a record deal on Thursday to help bolster their Super League rival's chances of continental glory.
"For the purpose of supporting Chinese teams to compete in the AFC Champions League, and for the national glory, we agreed Elkeson's transfer to Shanghai SIPG club," Guangzhou said in a statement carried by Xinhua news agency.
Guangzhou, the reigning five-times Super League champions and AFC Champions League holders, acknowledged money had also been a factor in the sale of the Brazilian striker, who scored 77 times in three trophy-laden seasons in China.
"The (sale of) Elkeson created a record high number in Chinese transfer market, the club got back the 5.7 million (euro) investment, and acquired...profit," the club said.
Xinhua said Shanghai, who finished two points behind Guangzhou in the Super League last year, had paid around $20 million for Elkeson, citing a source close to the 26-year-old Brazilian.
Elkeson scored the winning goal as Guangzhou beat Al-Ahli of the UAE to win a second AFC Champions League in three years in November. The 2013 win in the final over FC Seoul was the first time a Chinese club had won the continental trophy in 23 years.
Big-spending Guangzhou, part owned by the Alibaba Group, have been the benchmark for local rivals in a burgeoning league awash with heavy investment.
The development fuelled in a bid to achieve President Xi Jinping's dream of China one day hosting and winning the World Cup.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)
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