Why the Time Is Right for Tottenham Hotspur to Cut Their Losses on Paulinho

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2015

Paulinho may have played his last match in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt.
Paulinho may have played his last match in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

It is safe to say Paulinho was not the success Tottenham Hotspur hoped he would be following his arrival from Corinthians in July 2013.

On Monday, Guangzhou Evergrande confirmed the Brazilian will head to China to team up with his former national-team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari (below). At the time of writing, Tottenham had not announced his sale, which BBC Sport and others have at £9.9 million.

Paulinho's struggle to convince he deserved more playing time in part contributed to the changing face of Tottenham's midfield this past year. Evidently finding it increasingly difficult to envision him as part of it moving forward, it was the right time for the north London club to cut their losses.

Paulinho will team up with his former national-team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari in China.
Paulinho will team up with his former national-team boss Luiz Felipe Scolari in China.Buda Mendes/Getty Images

The writing was on the wall when Paulinho was one of those left behind for the post-season tour of Malaysia and Australia. Head coach Mauricio Pochettino certainly needed to begin trimming the number of central midfielders at his disposal.

Unused since January, Etienne Capoue felt like the most immediate option, and it would still be a surprise if he does not leave this summer. Out of sight and out of mind, Lewis Holtby returning to the Spurs side after his year at Hamburg would be unexpected, too. Paulinho felt like the next most sensible and likely option for moving someone on.

The aforementioned transfer fee, while short of the near-£17 million Spurs are reported to have paid for him, is a decent sum for a player whose stock has fallen but still holds some appeal. Although he and Scolari's involvement with the Brazil team ended on the sour note of their humiliating 7-1 World Cup semi-final exit at the hands of Germany, the boss will still remember the player's impressive work for him in the run-up to the tournament.

Spurs—coached by Andre Villas-Boas at the time—liked what they saw, too. While Paulinho had not enjoyed previous spells abroad in Lithuania and Poland (time sadly marred by experiences with racism he recounted shortly after his arrival in England, via ESPN), his strong performances in his country's 2013 Confederations Cup victory helped create the perception he was ready to try his luck abroad again.

Paulinho chases after Manchester City's Frank Lampard in what proved to be the Brazilian's last appearance for Spurs. He never came close to match the Englishman—a player he had been compared to upon his arrival—during his Premier League stay.
Paulinho chases after Manchester City's Frank Lampard in what proved to be the Brazilian's last appearance for Spurs. He never came close to match the Englishman—a player he had been compared to upon his arrival—during his Premier League stay.Bogdan Maran/Associated Press

Coupled with his successful three years at Corinthians, some believed Spurs had someone who may turn into their own Frank Lampard—a box-to-box midfielder with plenty of goals in him.

Paulinho, who was part of the Corinthians team to beat Lampard and Chelsea in the 2012 Club World Cup, did not shy away from the comparison either. "This comparison is a responsibility that I will take, I will not run away from it," he boldly said on Brazilian TV, translated via the Mirror's Darren Lewis.

Regarding Paulinho as a Lampard in the making was always likely to be overreaching given the extraordinary levels the Englishman has reached over his career. Still, early glimmers of potential in his first season with Spurs gave hope they may have a potential midfield mainstay on their hands.

There were suggestions of a burgeoning partnership with Mousa Dembele early on. Individually he caught the eye, too.

Paulinho scored a respectable eight goals in his first term, notably netting a dramatic late winner away at Cardiff City early on. After getting sent off in Villas-Boas' last match against Liverpool, he returned with a dazzling performance to help Spurs beat Stoke City 3-0.

Paulinho was excellent in a 3-0 win against Stoke in December 2013. Such performances did not become a regular occurrence.
Paulinho was excellent in a 3-0 win against Stoke in December 2013. Such performances did not become a regular occurrence.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

"It was an eye-opener for me today to see Paulinho, I never thought he had all that," the newly installed head coach Tim Sherwood told BBC Sport. This writer was glowing in his analysis of the Brazilian's display up until he was injured, noting how "Paulinho ran the Potters ragged at times."

Paulinho's failure to turn these glimmers into anything more substantial have led to this situation, and Spurs are now content to move him on.

Besides a positive outing in August's Europa League home win against AEL Limassol, the midfielder was listless in the first half of 2014-15. He would up his game sufficiently in Pochettino's eyes to become a frequent back-up option, helping seal the wins over Chelsea and Arsenal and contributing composed work to defeats of West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United.

Spurs were understandably expecting more, though.

Fellow summer 2013 signings Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela certainly improved in year two. Paulinho's willingness to move to the comparatively low-key Chinese Super League at such a young age (albeit likely being handsomely compensated as he joins the champions Guangzhou) suggests the Lilywhites might have got as much out of him as they were ever likely to.

Mauricio Pochettino made as much use of Paulinho as he could but has evidently decided he can now get more from other midfielders at Spurs.
Mauricio Pochettino made as much use of Paulinho as he could but has evidently decided he can now get more from other midfielders at Spurs.Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason's more motivated work establishing themselves in Tottenham's midfield has handed them the initiative ahead of the upcoming campaign. With, among others, new signing Dele Alli, Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Benjamin Stambouli to compete with up and down the central-midfield ladder as well, opportunities were likely to be at a minimum for Paulinho.

If there had been some indication he was genuinely ready to fight for a place, Pochettino may have been prepared to keep Paulinho around. It seems, however, the Argentinian has decided he could get a greater return from others. He also now has a little more room to manoeuvre should he decide to bring someone else in.

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