From being ridiculed by frustrated fans to being a key player for Barcelona, Paulinho has shown that Ernesto Valverde’s midfield bet is paying off
Paulinho received a lot of criticism after the Brazilian completed his move to Barcelona in the summer transfer window, for a reported fee of around $45 million. But with the player showing such positive signs in his early days at the club, is it fair to say that fans rushed into unfairly criticizing the midfielder, before giving him the chance to prove himself?
Brazil international Paulinho is showing signs that his vastly-criticized move to Camp Nou has the potential to turn into a bargain. Despite turning 29-years-old, Paulinho is still as energetic and dynamic as ever – two aspects that Barcelona’s midfield has lacked over the past few seasons. He is capable of adding physicality, which could have been crucial in away Champions League ties last season such as against Paris Saint Germain and Juventus.
Besides his athleticism, Paulinho imposes himself as a constant goal-scoring threat with his movement, runs into the penalty box and finishing skills. As a matter of fact, the former Guangzhou Evergrande star is the club’s second highest goal scorer this season with three goals, only behind a certain Lionel Messi.
In the defense of fans who were, and possibly still are, against the signing of Paulinho, the player clearly does not fit-in the Barcelona DNA of dominating possession, as his passing-range is nothing more than decent, the same as his technique. His characteristics are very different from those of Xavi. He is a 29-year old who flopped in the English Premier League and comes from the Chinese Super League. These are the essential factors that led to this huge wave of criticism, especially as Barcelona fans were hoping of a Marco Verratti type of a controller to boss the midfield.
However, it is clear that Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is not keen on sticking to the fundamentals of the club’s philosophy for the sake of it, but is prepared to add some of his own ideas to it. It is obvious that this Barça side is more direct than the Pep Guardiola one, for example, and less obsessed in retaining possession at any cost – but is readier to deviate from the norms, in order to reach their goal – taking Barcelona back to the top of the Spanish Liga, as well as the Champions League.
Having said that, Paulinho would be an excellent fit in a more direct system like this one. He is even turning into a key player in Valverde’s midfield – with the evidence of having already started six games in La Liga and Europe. It is no surprise, as the Brazilian has been in brilliant form with the national team since former Corinthians boss Tite took charge. The duo shared a lot of achievements together, from winning the Campeonato Brasileiro to conquering the Copa Libertadores, before eventually reaching the peak while beating Chelsea in the FIFA Club World Cup final.
Paulihno’s move to Barcelona has been excellent news for Brazil fans. He is getting a lot of playing time, and is actually living up to his potential by repeating the same level of performances he has shown with the yellow jersey. But, the biggest challenge certainly lies ahead, as Russia 2018 is around the corner.