When Barcelona announced that they were signing Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande, there was widespread disbelief among the Camp Nou going public. More so when they realised that the fee involved was €40 million (Dh175 million) for the 29-year-old. Perhaps they had been conditioned by what they had heard rather than what they had seen. After all, Tottenham Hotspur’s fan base had voted the Brazilian as the worst player ever to wear their shirt and laughed heartily at the news he was heading to Catalonia.
A few carefully selected pieces of video footage were shared on social media to suit their narrative, and Paulinho’s interim move to China was validation for their point of view. Not good enough to cut it in the Premier League, so farming him out to a footballing backwater, with respect, was just about his level.
What they neglected to think about of course was that the player’s agent was the one who sold him to Guangzhou, simply because he owns the player and they gave him a bigger slice of the pie.
They also overlooked the fact that Brazilian national team manager, Tite, has been more than happy to make Paulinho his captain on occasion. Surely that says more about the player’s credentials than a few unhappy north London oiks?!
It’s worth pointing out that this is the beginning of a pre-World Cup year and every player that wants to represent their country at the 2018 showpiece in Russia is playing for their place.
Ernesto Valverde isn’t a manager that appears to do things on a whim, so the likelihood that he has thought long and hard before making the decision to purchase Paulinho is strong. And he might just have played a blinder here.
After all, he’s just the type of player that Barcelona are looking for. Energetic, strong on the ball and someone who can run from box to box all game long, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets will be more than glad of the rest or help, as and when needed.
In fact, Paulinho is something of a ‘hybrid’ midfielder given that he can play the Busquets’ holding role or the more attacking Rakitic role with consummate ease. That could be invaluable to Barcelona, especially during the latter stages of the campaign.
For now, the Brazilian can be happy with his decisive contribution from the bench, his drilled shot proving to be the winner in what was a highly competitive game against Getafe on Saturday. It also allowed Barca to maintain their perfect start to the season.
He who laughs last …
— The writer is an expert on Spanish football.