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Fluminense re-sign China-based star Dario Conca

Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian club Fluminense have confirmed that Argentine star Dario Conca will make an emotional return to the club next year after inspiring China’s Guangzhou Evergrande to the Asian Champions League title.

Fluminense confirmed the return of Conca on their website, delighting fans of the skillful 30-year-old, who reportedly became the third highest-paid footballer in the world after Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi when he moved to China in 2011.

“I would like to thank the Fluminense fans for all the affection they have shown me over the years,” Conca said in comments on the Fluminense website.

“I am very happy to return to Fluminense and I’m looking forward to playing once again next year,” added Conca, who will return to the club in January.

Reports in Brazil said Conca had agreed a three-year deal worth an estimated $300,000 a month.

Conca was once regarded as one of the brightest stars in South American football, beginning his senior career with River Plate in Argentina before eventually moving to Fluminense on loan in 2008.

He played in both matches of the 2008 Copa Libertadores final for the Brazilian club, where they lost to LDU Quito of Ecuador.

He joined Guangzhou, who are bankrolled by a Chinese property firm, in mid-2011 for a fee of around $10 million (Dh36.72 million).

The short, solid midfielder with sublime passing and control, plus lethal set-piece skills, quickly became a key element of the team and helped Guangzhou win three successive Chinese Super League titles.

He was also the hub of Guangzhou’s South American attack, behind Brazilian strikers Muriqui and Elkeson, during this year’s AFC Champions League victory, the first Asian title for a Chinese team in 23 years.

Conca did not have an easy relationship with Guangzhou’s former coach Lee Jang-soo and he was banned for nine games by the club in May last year for publicly criticising the South Korean on his Twitter-like weibo account.

However, just days later Conca played in Guangzhou’s important Champions League tie with Thailand’s Buriram United. Lee was sacked shortly afterwards and replaced by World Cup-winning Italian coach Marcello Lippi.

Conca’s departure will leave a creative void for Guangzhou as they bid to defend their domestic and Asian titles. They are also likely to be looking for a new manager with Lippi’s contract set to run out in 2014.