Three-and-a-half years ago, Paulinho was playing second-division football at Bragantino, having recently returned to Brazil following an 18-month stint between clubs in Poland and Lithuania.
Awkwardly located between a generation of Brazilian footballers that made its way to Europe as teenagers and one that—because of a burgeoning economy and better-funded clubs, was able to stay in its home country a bit longer—his career took a bit of extra time to get off the ground.
But once it did—and once Corinthians picked him up from their diminutive Paulista neighbours—it quickly became evident that the sky was the limit for the 5’11” midfielder.
Brought along slowly during his first season at the Sao Paulo giants, Paulinho was ushered into the first team in 2011 as a 22-year-old. He would go on to score seven goals for Timao, help the club to a Serie A title and earn himself a place in the Team of the Season.
The following July he starred as Corinthians beat Boca Juniors in a dream final to win their first Copa Libertadores crown, and last December he was part of the side that beat Chelsea to win the FIFA Club World Cup in Japan.
“I want to give our thanks to the immense Paulinho, for all he did for Corinthians,” club director Roberto Andrade told a Monday press conference. “Corinthians are very proud to have had a player like him on our roster. There’s nothing more righteous than that he continue life with an English club and meet a new culture.”
Given his recent, meteoric rise it would hardly be surprising if Paulinho not only nailed down a first-team spot at White Hart Lane but became a difference-maker in manager Andre Villas-Boas’ side as well. For while there have always been doubters of his ability, the now-24-year-old has made a living proving them wrong.
And never were the question marks as pronounced as during the Confederations Cup, where he formed one-half of a midfield duo that also included Bayern Munich backup Luiz Gustavo.
Having beat out the likes of Hernanes and Ramires for the position in the months leading up to the competition, Paulinho starred in the role as soon as the first ball was kicked in Brasilia.
He scored against Japan in the tournament opener, headed a powerful winner against Uruguay in the semifinal and against Spain in the championship match completed 92 percent of his passes—the same rate achieved by Xavi Hernandez and seven percent superior to that posted by Andres Iniesta (statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com).
But beyond the numbers, there was a player who became the unlikely action man of Brazil’s midfield—someone who could play the long, arching pass for a Neymar goal (as he did against Uruguay) or just as comfortably sit in front of the defense and frustrate the opposition attack (as he did against Spain).
At Spurs Paulinho will be given the chance to play in the “2” of Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 formation, and a prospective partnership of himself and Mousa Dembele is nothing short of a mouth-watering one.
Of course, that’s assuming he settles and maintains the level of performance the Spurs scouts have become accustomed to seeing.
But if his past few seasons can be used as any sort of indication, he’ll not only meet the expectations set before him but exceed them in thrilling, winning fashion.