Villareal have announced the departure of their leading scorer, Cedric Bakambu, who is poised to join Chinese Super League side Beijing Sinobo Guoan FC.
The DR Congo international activated his release clause by paying €40 million to Villarreal and is expected to complete his transfer to the Chinese club.
A club statement from the La Liga outfit said on Wednesday evening: “Villarreal CF announces that Cedric Bakambu has deposited the buyout clause on his contract, hence he is no longer a part of member of the club.
“The club wants to thank the footballer for his dedication and professionalism, wishes him the best of luck in his sporting career.”
Bakambu bid farewell to the Villarreal fans on a video message which the Spanish club posted on twitter.
He said: “It’s a special day. After two-and-a-half years at the club I have to leave to play for Beijing. It was a complicated decision but I spoke to my family, my teammates and colleagues and I think this is a good opportunity for me and for my family.
“Today I have mixed feelings, Villarreal is a family and I will not forget them. People love me a lot here and so do I. I want to thank everyone.”
Beijing Guoan turned their attention Bakambu after failing to acquire Celta Vigo’s Uruguay striker Maxi Gomez last month.
Tied to Villarreal until June 2022, the 26-year-old forward scored nine goals in 15 league starts this season.
The French-born player last featured for Villarreal in a 1-0 win at Valencia on Dec. 23.
Villarreal, who are fifth in La Liga, and have a last-32 meeting in the Europa League next month with Lyon, must now go forward without their best player.
Villarreal coach Javi Calleja had no choice but to accept Bakambu’s departure.
He said earlier this month: “It’s not the best for us but in this case, there is a club that has shown an interest in our leading player. They want to pay his release clause and in this situation, there is little you can do.”
Villarreal strengthened their attack with the arrival of Colombian striker Roger Martinez on loan from Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Sunin.
Bakambu joined Villarreal in the summer of 2015 from Turkish side Bursaspor. He scored 22 goals in his first season in Spain and 12 in 34 games in all competitions in the 2016-17 campaign.
He signed a two-year contract extension with the Yellow Submarine last summer.
Coached by German manager Roger Schmidt, Beijing Guoan finished ninth in the 2017-18 Super league. They won 11 and lost 12 of their 30 games and have not won any silverware since 2003.