Tianjin Quanjian's bid to sign Diego Costa from Chelsea has been scuppered by new rules in the Chinese Super League, says club owner Shu Yuhui.
Shu claims Tianjin had lined up moves for Spain international Costa, 28, and fellow forwards Karim Benzema, Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani.
But Chinese clubs will only be able to field three foreign players per game when the new season starts.
"This situation has brought a change to our signing plans," said Shu.
Clubs could previously select four foreign players of any nationality and one Asian player in a matchday squad.
From the start of the new season, in March, they must name two Chinese players aged under 23 in their matchday squads, with at least one in the starting XI.
Shu said Tianjin would have made a "big investment" this year had the previous rule remained in place.
Speaking to Tianjin TV, Shu said contracts had been agreed with Monaco striker Falcao, 30, and Benfica forward Raul Jimenez, 25, before Monday's rule change.
Costa had been heavily linked with a move to China that would be worth £30m a year, though Chelsea had no intention of selling him.
"The online reports about Costa - it's true we'd like him, and we made an offer for Cavani and were deep in negotiations," said Shu, in comments reported by the South China Morning Post.
Billionaire Shu added Costa and Paris St-Germain forward Cavani, 29, could have signed but their clubs did not want them to leave during the European season.
"We couldn't afford to wait half a season," he added.
"We continue to wait and suffer, but at the end of the day we'll get someone. We have targeted a lot of strikers, and made an offer for Benzema, but with this policy change, we are very helpless."
Tianjin were promoted to the Super League last season and have Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro as their manager.
Meanwhile, Burkina Faso forward Bertrand Traore expects other African players to follow Nigeria captain Jon Mikel Obi in the Chinese Super League.
Take part in our Premier League Predictor game, which allows you to create leagues with friends.