To say that Tottenham’s summer acquisitions have struggled to settle in is to put it mildly. Spurs have bought for the future but aside from Christian Eriksen the results are proving painfully slow for a club desperate to return to the Champions League once again.
There are hints of genius and genuine quality among most of the new recruits, but the one that continues to frustrate more than any other has got to be their highly regarded Brazilian import.
Paulinho arrived in the Premier League from Brazilian club Corinthians last summer in a then club record deal worth around £17m. The midfielder arrived in England with a lofty reputation built in South America both at domestic and international level. Even fans that were either unconvinced or simply didn’t know enough about him felt safe in the fact that his talents were enough to earn him regular starts for his national side.
He was quickly made central to AVB’s side at the start of the season, looking bright at times with glimmers of Brazilian flair and intricate skill. But these moments have been brief, and even now many fans and pundits are still left wondering what the Brazilian actually does at Spurs. Every member of the Spurs midfield would seem to have a hard and fast role; Sandro is the enforcer, Dembele the box-to-box driving midfielder and Eriksen your creative playmaker. What on earth does Paulinho actually do?
Tim Sherwood has clearly been wondering the same thing, and his decision to exclude him from the last few games suggests he is just as confused as many of we are.
Paulinho has reacted angrily with his agent already doing his best to ignite interest in his client. The Brazilian outlined his current concerns with life in England:
“I understand the team rotation because that’s how it works here but I am not feeling well or comfortable. I want to be present, I want to play.”
“The language is the most complicated thing as I am lazy about studying. I am learning little by little but I don’t understand everything.”
For all the abuse Tim Sherwood has got in recent weeks at least you can accept that he tries to be meritocratic. Based on recent showings there is no way that Paulinho should be in that Spurs first team, he simply doesn’t offer as much as those vying for that slot and until that changes he should be left on the sidelines. Sherwood has made his defence of the decision quite clear, and I think it is a stance many Spurs fans would happily go along with:
“I pick players on what they are doing in training, not on reputations and price tags,” Sherwood said.
“I can’t be worrying if the Brazil national manager wants him to play every week. I am going to do what is best for Tottenham, not any national manager. He knows if he trains well and plays well, he stays in the side.’ Sherwood added: ‘He’s come here from another country and the language has been a problem for him.”
“Also settling into the Premier League, it’s a different game from what he has been used to. It’s very fast with no respite and we play a completely different way to the Brazil team and the team he has come from. He won’t find any Premier League team similar to what he has been used to. But he trains well and wants to be a success.”
Paulinho has the opportunity to turn this around, be that in training or during the first team opportunities that he is afforded. The problem is from both body language and what has to say publicly, it doesn’t look as if he has any great desire to make things work in England.
Despite his less that convincing start in England, Paulinho’s global reputation is still largely intact. If Spurs could recoup what they paid, and it is looking like they could given interest from Spain and Italy, then both parties would appear to be pretty satisfied here.
The Tottenham midfield is immensely competitive, and with Eriksen nailing down that playmaker role it is difficult to see how the Brazilian could ever fit in with the clubs long term plans.
For me Paulinho is unfortunately yet another piece of misguided transfer business from Spurs, and even the most optimistic may have to accept this is a move that probably won’t ever work out.
Probably time to cut their losses at Spurs with this one.