Scout Report: Manchester City and Chelsea Transfer Target Paulinho

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Paulinho of Brazil is marshalled by Chris Smalling of England during the International friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium on February 6, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

With the January window closed, it hasn't taken long for rumours of summer transfer targets to emerge. 

One of the players who fits into this category is Brazilian midfielder Paulinho. The Corinthians man has really risen to prominence of late. He played a key role in the Copa Libertadores win for his club side Corinthians and as such, has been given a starting role in the Brazilian team.

The midfielder's agent Kia Joorabchian has gone on the record as saying his player is looking for a potential move to Europe. It appears interested parties will not be in short supply.

His style of play has lead to some links to Premier League sides, with Manchester City and Chelsea both being touted as potential suitors.

So with Brazil taking on England at Wembley last night, it seemed like a good opportunity to run the rule over the rising Brazilian star. After all, if he is to play in England one day, there would be no better test than taking on some of the countries best midfielders, at Wembley.

The match began with Paulinho and Ramires in a double pivot midfield, with Chelsea’s Oscar operating just in front. Both of the holding players took turns to push forward and join in attacks, whilst the other would sit. In the early stages of the game, Paulinho operated primarily in the holding role with his midfield partner bombing on. With Brazil on top for the first 20 minutes, Paulinho played well. His passing was crisp, he was alert and his clever movement always gave the Brazil centre-backs an easy pass into midfield to start attacks.

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But as England cranked up the pressure, the Corinthians man really began to struggle. Brazil switched from a 4-2-3-1 system to what looked at times to be something a 4-2-4. Oscar was pushed out to the right hand side, Neymar on the left, with Ronaldinho joining Luis Fabiano in attack.

This left the two holding players exposed as the England midfield three of Steven Gerrard, Tom Cleverley and particularly Jack Wilshere started to play round them.

In the 21st minute, Wilshere drew Paulinho into a tackle that was never really on and he played an easy one-two around him. Danny Welbeck missed the resultant opportunity.

When England’s pressure finally told and they went 1-0 up, Paulinho was at fault a couple of times in the build-up. Not for the first time (or the last for that matter), he was too rash trying to win the ball back and England easily played round him. When Walcott’s resultant shot was saved, he showed a lack of any real defensive instinct. Rooney nipped in front of him to slot home for England.

After he was caught in no man's land again in the 33rd minute, it was clear that the Corinthians man was really struggling to cope with the energy levels of the England midfield.

A slight tactical switch for the last 10 minutes of the half saw him as the player pushing forward to support the attacks. He looked much more comfortable doing so.

His best moment in the match actually came in England’s penalty area, as he flicked up a ball into feet and followed it with an excellently hooked overhead cross in to the box. England goalkeeper Joe Hart had to scramble back and claw it away.

The second half once again saw the double pivot exposed, as Luiz Felipe Scolari’s half-time changes did little to stem the flow of England’s rampant midfield. Rooney again got in front of Paulinho to tee-up Frank Lampard for the winning goal, but to be fair to Paulinho he received a horror of a pass from half-time substitute Arouca.

Paulinho remained on the pitch for a further 15 minutes after half time, having minimal influence on the rest of proceedings. He sprayed a couple of tidy passes into the wide areas but, failed to make any more major contributions from an attacking or defensive point of before his withdrawal.

So, overall verdict?

If Europe’s big players are going to snap up Paulinho, then it won’t be on the back of this performance.

He showed glimpses of attacking talent, but for a player lauded as a box-to-box midfielder his defensive work was left much to be desired.

Granted, Brazil’s front four offered about as much protection to their defence as a paper-shield, but I failed to see any of the instincts that you would expect from a player of his ilk. He was rash in his tackling and out of position too often.

Physically, he ticks all the boxes. He is a strong runner and good in the air. His work-rate was fine overall, but his attacking bursts certainly outweighed his efforts to get back and defend, which were often ponderous.

If he was to make a move to the Premier League, or any major European league for that matter, then I think he would initially struggle as the more defensive minded of a double-pivot midfield pair. I imagine that when Brazil get back to competitive action, it will be one of Paulinho or Ramires next to a genuine "destroyer" like Sandro or Lucas Leiva at the base of the midfield.

It is easy to write this performance off because it was a friendly, but these encounters will become more important for the Brazilians, especially as they will feature in minimal competitive action building up to next summer's showpiece event. Without wanting to sign cliched, they will have to treat every game seriously from now on. Paulinho included.

What did you think of Paulinho's performance? Which players on the Brazilian team impressed you? 

Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball