Although Tottenham fans were sad to say goodbye to Gareth Bale in the summer of 2013, the splurging of multiple millions after his departure promised to see some top-notch players arrive at White Hart Lane.
Of all the new faces that were purchased by the North London club using the Welshman’s world record fee, Brazil international midfielder Paulinho was arguably the most exciting. Playing for Corinthians at the time, the box-to-box man was a regular fixture in his national team and was being linked to some of European football’s biggest clubs. Spurs landing Paulinho was seen as something of a coup; the midfielder had been an ever-present in the Selecao side that scooped the Confederations Cup the summer before arriving, and was even talked of as one of the tournament’s best players.
Fast forward two years and the South American has sealed his White Hart Lane exit, with the Brazilian making the move to Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande.
It is fair to state that Paulinho was a dramatic failure at Tottenham, but where did it all go wrong?
Initially the signs were positive, with hints that the samba star could be the driving force in the team’s midfield and help Spurs secure a top-four place. With good reading of the game and excellent movement off the ball, Paulinho regularly found himself in excellent goalscoring positions in his first campaign in English football.
However, despite the 26-year-old finishing the 2013-14 campaign with six Premier League strikes to his name, Paulinho was largely wasteful in front of goal. The number of chances that the Brazilian spurned throughout the season added up, with the White Hart Lane faithful becoming frustrated with his inability to capitalise on the positions that he took up.
In Andre Villas-Boas’ 4-2-3-1 formation, Paulinho was most commonly utilised in the centre of midfield – the same position that he took up for his country. However, despite the ex-Corinthians man building up something of a reputation for being an enforcer before moving to England, he failed to live up to the physical side of the game in the Premier League.
Missed tackles and being beaten in the air was the tip of the iceberg, and the Spurs supporters lost faith in him when it started to become apparent that he did not have the appetite to fully engage in 50-50 challenges. Ryan Mason has since become a fans’ favourite for his attitude in this part of the game.
Not trusted to feature in front of the side’s defence, Paulinho’s chances to play were minimal under Mauricio Pochettino; largely because Christian Eriksen commandeered the ‘No.10’ role that the Brazilian was seen as an alternative for.
The last nail in the coffin came in a dull 0-0 draw against Burnley at Turf Moor towards the end of the campaign, where the outcast was given a rare start, but put in a dire performance – his infamous dragged shot at goal seemed to sum up his entire spell in North London.
Winning 32 caps for Brazil is no mean feat and with time Paulinho could maybe have adapted to the English game and won the fans over, but instead he becomes another Brazilian player to fail to make an impact in the Premier League.
He will now embark on a new challenge in Asia, with Spurs fans scratching their heads wondering what might have been.