How Paulinho went from Tottenham reject to reported Barcelona signing - via the Chinese Super League

Paulinho in action for Guangzhou Evergrande during the Chinese Super League match against Beijing Guoan
Image: Paulinho has reportedly joined Barcelona, two years after leaving Tottenham for Guangzhou Evergrande

From Tottenham outcast to reported Barcelona signing, how has Paulinho turned his fortunes around in China?

Paulinho has reportedly joined Barcelona from Guangzhou Evergrande, with the Catalan giants activating his £36.5m release clause.

The move to the Nou Camp will cap off a remarkable return to form for Paulinho, who has also forced his way back into international reckoning with Brazil.

But how has the midfielder achieved this remarkable resurgence? We chart the lows, and subsequent highs, that have transpired for Paulinho in recent years.

What went wrong at Spurs?

The word flop features prominently if you search 'Paulinho Tottenham'. The Brazilian arrived at White Hart Lane in the summer of 2013, for a fee believed to be just under £17m.

It was a club-record fee for Spurs at the time - in the same summer Gareth Bale was sold to Real Madrid for a world-record £85.3m - but after making 30 Premier League appearances in 2013/14, he featured 15 times the following season, starting on just three occasions.

Image: Paulinho grew accustomed to sitting on the bench at Spurs

Christian Eriksen was stamping his authority in an attacking midfield role - one he assumes to this day - while Mousa Dembele, Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb were all preferred in a deeper role during Mauricio Pochettino's first season in charge.

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Recalling his struggles to Goal, Paulinho said: "Pochettino arrived and I did not play much. I only played a maximum of four matches in my preferred role and sometimes as a No10.

"Pochettino had his options and at that time he thought I was not the best option for him. But I do think that if he gave me the opportunity in my role then I would have convinced him."

Out of favour and out of form, there was simply no place for Paulinho in the Spurs side, and he dropped out of the Brazil squad as a result.

What has gone right in China?

Pochettino's first year as Spurs boss proved to be Paulinho's last as a Spurs player. Guangzhou came calling in the summer of 2015, and they paid the north London club £9.8m for his services.

Paulinho's move to China saw him link up with manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had selected him for Brazil's squad at the 2014 World Cup.

Paulinho (R) lifted the Chinese Super League title with Guangzhou Evergrande in his first season
Image: Paulinho (right) has lifted the Chinese Super League title with Guangzhou Evergrande in his first two seasons

'Big Phil' made Paulinho central to his plans in China, and the intent to implement a Brazilian swagger into the Guangzhou side was evident when Scolari brought over Robinho soon after.

Robinho made just 10 appearances for Guangzhou - scoring three times - while it was compatriot Ricardo Goulart who fired the club to a fifth consecutive league triumph in 2015, netting 19 times.

Paulinho himself became a regular starter under Scolari - scoring a 40-yard free-kick in his first season there - while eight goals in 30 games saw him steer Guangzhou to title No 6 in 2016.

As a result, Paulinho forced his way back into the Brazil reckoning for their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign. He has started seven of their eight games so far - missing one through suspension.

(FromL) Brazil's coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, Brazil's midfielder Paulinho
Image: Luiz Felipe Scolari has shown faith in Paulinho at Guangzhou, having coached the midfielder for the national side back in 2014

Paulinho even scored a hat-trick against rivals Uruguay earlier this year, a remarkable feat for any midfielder, but one that certainly surprised many a Premier League follower who assumed he had waltzed into semi-retirement in China.

Scolari, meanwhile, was delighted to see Paulinho prove both his own worth and that of the Chinese Super League as a whole.

"Paulinho was not in the national team list, but he fought his way back. That is why I am very proud of the Chinese Super League," Scolari said back in March.

"So it is wrong to say that the CSL is for players who have come to the end of their career. The CSL has showed it is competitive and it is able to give players the chance to play for their country again."

Brazil's midfielder Paulinho (L) celebrates with teammate Brazil's midfielder Willian his second goal during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier football m
Image: Paulinho (left) celebrates with Willian after netting his second of three goals against Uruguay

Barcelona bound?

Guangzhou are currently top the Chinese Super League after 21 games, while Brazil have already secured their spot in Russia next year. It has been a 2017 to remember so far for Paulinho.

Scolari was desperate to keep Paulinho at Guangzhou, but it now appears he will become Barcelona's first signing since Neymar's £198m move to Paris St Germain.

His next challenge will be to hold down a spot in their midfield. Barcelona will be hoping his resurgence continues in Catalonia.

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