La Liga giants Barcelona are currently negotiating a deal with Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande’s Brazilian midfielder Paulinho.
According to a report in Spanish publication SPORT, Barcelona’s technical team have kept a close eye on him over the course of the current campaign and have reportedly been left impressed by what they saw of the 28-year-old Brazilian international midfielder.
Barcelona’s Director of Professional Football Raul Sanllehi, reportedly met Paulinho’s representatives in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, to discuss a move to the Nou Camp and how they would convince the Guangzhou Evergrande to let go of their star player.
The report further states that manager Luiz Felipe Scolari doesn’t want to let go of Paulinho, who he purchased from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of £9.9 million in the summer of 2015, well before the current trend of spending exorbitant sums of money on European superstars kicked in.
Since moving to China, he has established himself as one of the best players in not only the League, but also the Asian continent. He has scored 24 goals and registered 8 assists in 87 appearances for the ‘Southern China Tigers’ across all competitions.
He has also helped them win 2 consecutive Chinese Super League & Chinese FA Super Cup titles, a Chinese FA Cup and also the 2015 AFC Champions League and perhaps more importantly, he has still managed to hold down a place in the Brazilian National Team.
It is his performances for Tite’s Canarinhos since getting back into the team in 2016 after a 2 year absence, that have impressed the Blaugrana. In their 2018 World Cup qualifying matches, he has scored 4 goals and provided 2 assists in 7 matches, missing 1 match due to a suspension.
The 28-year-old is best known for his time spent at English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur. They paid an estimated £17 million for him in 2013 and he was their club’s record transfer for a short while, before Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela were purchased a few weeks later.
In 2 seasons in London, he wasn’t quite able to fulfill his vast potential. He was regular fixture in the starting XI for both Andre Villas Boas and Tim Sherwood in his first season, making 37 appearances and scoring 8 goals across all competitions.
However, he could not build on the promise of the first season and in the following campaign, he was used sparingly after the arrival Mauricio Pochettino and started only 11 of his 30 appearances, before ultimately being shipped off to China.
With Arda Turan expected to leave, Iniesta not getting any younger and Andre Gomes failing to live up to his huge price tag, it comes as no surprise that Barcelona are hunting for midfield reinforcements and they have heavily been linked with Marco Verratti from Paris Saint-Germain.
Paulinho will likely be a fallback option if they fail to acquire the Italian this summer and Ernesto Valverde has apparently given his approval for the move. The Brazilian will also be a cheaper option, even if comes at the expense of quality and European experience.
Currently in his third season with Guangzhou, there is a very real chance that Paulinho may have gotten used to the Chinese game which in all fairness, is well below that of Europe in terms of quality. With that in mind, a move to a club that expects 6 major trophies a season may prove too big a shift.
Also, if he doesn’t get the same kind of minutes at Barcelona that he does at Guangzhou, then his chances of featuring at the World Cup next year for Brazil will be severely affected, not something he may be willing to risk. However the chance to move to Barcelona is an opportunity that only a fortunate few are afforded over the course of their playing careers and it will be interesting to see how this move turns out if it goes through.