New Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite admitted he was surprised to learn the Spanish champions wanted to bring him to the club but said he had always felt he could perform among European football’s elite.

The Denmark striker signed a four-year contract with Barca on Thursday from La Liga strugglers Leganes after the Catalans paid his 18-million euro release clause. Upon signing for Barca, Braithwaite’s release clause rocketed to 300 million euros.

“I was surprised at the moment but at the same time not so surprised because for many years I’ve been seeing this in my head,” Braithwaite said at his presentation at the Camp Nou.

“It was always my ambition to play at this level.”

The 28-year-old has swapped a relegation battle with Leganes for a title tilt for Barca after the league’s organising body gave the Catalans special permission to sign a player outside the transfer window.

Before joining Leganes last year, the Dane had had an unremarkable career which included largely unsuccessful stints at English club Middlesbrough and French side Toulouse, also playing on loan for Girondins Bordeaux.

He has scored 74 goals in 292 appearances as a professional, only reaching double figures in two seasons, while he was at Toulouse.

The forward has also played 39 times for Denmark, including four matches at the 2018 World Cup.

“I’ve always been working hard and believing and I know if you work hard things will happen,” he added.

“As a footballer it’s one of the biggest things to be able to go to the best club in the world. I was surprised at the moment but it was meant to be.”

Barca decided not to sign a forward in the January transfer window after Luis Suarez was ruled out for four months following knee surgery but need another striker after French international Ousmane Dembele ruptured his hamstring.

Braithwaite could make his debut against Eibar on Saturday but will only be able to play a maximum of 14 games this season as he is not eligible for the Champions League and Barca have been knocked out of the Copa del Rey.

Leganes chief executive Martin Ortega fiercely criticised the rule which has left his side without their top scorer in their battle against relegation.

“We want to raise our voices because we’re in a very serious situation and have suffered a lot of damage,” he told reporters.

“We cannot understand the ruling that allows a club that has an injured player to carry out an operation like this unilaterally and transfer their problem to another club.”