Gareth Bale’s departure from Tottenham was a blow in itself, but the aftermath was arguably worse.
The Wales international won PFA Player of the Year during the 2012/13 campaign, his last one before moving to Real Madrid for a then world-record fee of £85.3m (€100m). Whilst his departure was not desired, at least Spurs then had a considerable amount of money to spend on the rest of the squad.
However, most of that cash was squandered. In the summer of 2013, the Lilywhites signed Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli. Other than Eriksen, none of them have set the world alight – even Lamela, who is still at the club, has blown hot and cold.
Here, we take a look at how he is getting on.
By the time Paulinho joined Spurs for £17.75m in 2013, he was already a Brazil international, and had just played an important part in the Selecao’s Confederations Cup victory – he played in all but one match.
His stint at Corinthians proved successful too – he won the Copa Libertadores there, whilst he was also a part of the the side that defeated Chelsea in the Club World Cup final in 2012. All in all, he scored 25 goals in 112 games for the club from midfield – Andre Villas-Boas will have likely thought he was signing a potential star.
That proved not to be the case. His first season in England was not too bad – he did manage eight goals in 37 matches in all competitions – but Mauricio Pochettino clearly wasn’t a fan. He made just three starts in the league during the 2014/15 season, failing to stake a claim for a regular first-team spot.
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It summed up his time in north London that he moved to China, often seen as a big payday away from the competitiveness of European football. Few will have expected to hear much from him again.
He certainly found his feet in the Far East. He made 105 appearances between 2015 and 2017, winning the Chinese Super League three times as well as the Asian Champions League, whilst his 26-goal return was not to be sniffed at. Still, there appeared to be little clamour for him to return to Europe.
That was until Barcelona incredibly stepped in to take him to La Liga. The fact that they had signed him in the first place was a shock, but the €40m (£36.4m) fee they paid was even more baffling.
Most surprising of all, though, was that he actually appeared to excel at the Camp Nou. He was there for just one season, but he managed nine goals and three assists in 34 league matches, whilst he featured nine times in the Champions League as well.
By 2018, he was already back on loan at Guangzhou with an obligatory purchase option in January – all in all, they paid £44.2m to take him back. Since then, he has 35 goals in 61 matches – clearly, China wasn’t the end of his career after all.