Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune has signed Argentine utility player Javier Mascherano to a multiyear contract worth 5.5 million euros (about .7 million), the club announced on Wednesday.
Mascherano, who just ended a seven-year stint with Spanish league giant Barcelona, will join his former national teammate Ezequiel Lavezzi, a veteran striker acquired by China Fortune last February, in a competitive squad managed by Chilean former Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
"The arrival of Mascherano will significantly enhance our roster defensively, and we expect greater chemistry to be built between him and Lavezzi to give the team a competitive edge," the club said in a statement on its website.
"Hopefully, the combination of the Argentine duo with a strong local lineup will help the team stay ahead of competitors in the new season."
Mascherano's signing is so far the CSL's only high-profile acquisition since a new Chinese Football Association introduced spending restrictions.
Following the CSL clubs' 0 million outlay in the 2016-17 transfer window, the CFA imposed a threshold of 45 million yuan (about million) last June to curb excessive spending on foreign imports.
Any club signing a new foreign player for a transfer fee exceeding the benchmark now has to pay an amount equal to the excess into a youth development foundation overseen by the CFA.
Also, starting this season, the number of Under-23 players a club sends out for each match cannot be fewer than the number of foreign players.
"The transfer-fee limit is aimed at preventing clubs from overpaying when buying new players for short-term results, and will encourage clubs to focus more on nursing homegrown talents for sustainable success," the CFA said.
China Fortune's fee for Mascherano, lower than the threshold, won't trigger the punitive levy.
The 33-year-old, who can play in midfield or defense, will join China Fortune at the club's preseason training camp in Marbella in southern Spain after bidding farewell to Barca fans in Friday's Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Espanyol.
Mascherano moved to West Ham United in 2006 from Corinthians in a double deal with compatriot Carlos Tevez before joining Liverpool in 2007 where he established himself as a hard-tackling defensive midfielder.
Three years later Barcelona forked out million for Mascherano, who won four La Liga titles, two Champions Leagues and two Club World Cups with the Catalan giant.