Written by @football.noww
No matter how often he gets knocked down, he always stands up again. After a career full of ups and downs, Paulinho now finds himself as a cult figure at legendary FC Barcelona.
José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior was born on 25th July 1988 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Child to a council worker and a supermarket manager, he grew up in bad conditions and started his footballing career when he played for the youth team of Pão de Açúcar Esporte Club, now known as Audax Sao Paulo. Aged 17 in 2008, he already had enough of it. After failing to break into Pao´s first team, Paulinho signed his first professional contract with Lithuanian side FC Vilnius in 2006. After two unsuccessful seasons marked by relegation and racial abuses, Paulinho left Lithuania for Poland. After less than a year playing there for LKS Lodz (where he was paid way less than agreed), he quit it and said that he never wanted to play football again. But his wife, then pregnant, convinced him of not giving up, as she argued that he couldn´t do anything else and he had to care for his parents and his soon-to-be-born daughter. So he joined his youth club Pão de Açúcar for a second time, basically starting from zero again.
He won promotion with them before joining Bragantino in the second Brazilian division. From there he headed to Corinthians, where he won the Brazilian title, the Copa Libertadores and the Club World Cup. Having turned down Internazionale Milan, he joined Tottenham for a club-record 19 Million Euros in 2013. The Premier League suited him in general, but André Villas-Boas, the coach who knew him, who convinced him to come to the Spurs, was gone shortly after Paulinho´s arrival. And with him, the Brazilian's confidence and playing times. He started 28 games in his first season in North London and just three in his second under new coaches Tim Sherwood and later Mauricio Pochettino. In between, the shameful night of the 8th July happened, when Brazil´s national team was shockingly defeated 7:1 by Germany in the semi-final of the 2014 World Cup, in Brazil.
That summer was the second time Paulinho finally gave up. For him, it was no option staying at Tottenham, but he also had no other offers. Thank god Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande, then coached by his old friend Tite, called. It was a time where the Chinese Super League flourished with several big European transfers coming in and Paulinho took the chance, although he was aware of the fact that this was certainly a step down for him.
Going to China is where the story was supposed to end. Media and Fans both cribbed off his career, they all put it down for him to cashing in a few years and then ending it for the Brazilian midfielder. But his time in the middle kingdom turned out to be a restart. Paulinho found his joy in playing football again and was one of the few European players who really took their time in China seriously. 28 goals and nine Assists in 95 games for Guangzhou are great numbers, he also won six titles including two consecutive Chinese championships and the AFC Champions League.
When the news headlines reported a 40 Million Euros move of Paulinho to FC Barcelona, most people shook their head. After a world record departure of Neymar, Barcelona was in the middle of a crisis, and this transfer was seen as a definitive sign of this club´s downward spiral.
Seven months later and we all know better. The now 29-year-old proofed to be the biggest transfer surprises for long and a sign of the incredible intelligence of the Blaugrana´s management. Paulinho is something Barca actually never had in their history. A beefy, hard-working, much-running box-to-box-midfielder. His playing style doesn´t belong into the “normal” Barcelona system, but it perfectly fits Ernesto Valverde and his idea of the game. The way he redefined this club is remarkable and outstanding and believe it or not, Paulinho plays a big part in all that, not just because of his eight goals and two assists in the league, but also because of his mentality and presence on as well as off the pitch.