China midfielder Zhou Haibin looks set to join PSV Eindhoven in a move that challenges the right of Chinese clubs to retain the registration of out-of-contract players.
The 23-year-old, dubbed "China's Bosman" by local media, finished his contract at Shandong Luneng at the end of last season and has since been negotiating a move to the Dutch champions.
The Chinese Football Association (CFA), however, instituted a rule in 2007 that allows Chinese clubs to retain the registration of players for 30 months after the expiration of their contracts.
Zhou's agent, surnamed Wu, said PSV had gone ahead with signing the player despite Shandong's reported objections.
"His name has been registered (with PSV), but I can't give you any more details," Wu told Friday's Beijing News.
The affair has attracted a lot of attention and state news agency Xinhua issued an opinion piece on Thursday that heavily criticised the CFA for the rule, which it said was outdated and reflected the backwardness of the game in China.
A spokesman for the CFA said he was unaware of the details of the case. No one at Shandong Luneng was available for comment.
Zhou, who won two Chinese Super League titles in six years at Shandong, made his international debut against Japan in 2003 and has since become a fixture in China's underperforming team.
His national team mate Sun Xiang played a handful of games on loan at PSV in 2007 -- during which time he became the first Chinese to play in a Champions League match.
The Bosman Ruling, inspired by the case of Belgian player Jean-Marc Bosman and established by the European Court of Justice in 1995, barred the payment of fees for players out of contract and transformed the transfer market in Europe.