Barcelona are struggling; they have lost one of their superstars in Neymar, seen ageing stalwarts Iniesta and Busquets and have a new manager still finding his feet in Catalonia. The fans are unhappy with many suggesting this season could be a tough ride. A lot hinges on who they bring in to replace Neymar as well as who they add to other struggling areas of the squad.
However, as it stands, the only new player to sign for the Blaugrana is Brazilian midfielder Paulinho brought in from the Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande. He was once voted Tottenham’s worst ever player during a disastrous stint in London. The Barcelona fans were not happy, with many tweeting their displeasure and suggesting the board of Barcelona had made a huge mistake. I’m not so sure this is the case, while I don’t see Paulinho becoming the next Xavi, I think he will bring something different to a Barcelona side who often only have one way to play. I feel there are three key reasons he is a good signing for Barcelona.
Style of Play:
Paulinho is not the type of player who would have come through Barcelona’s famed La Masia. He is bigger, stronger and more of a destroyer than players like Xavi, Iniesta and even Busquets. He is the type of midfielder who will happily pick up the ball and drive at defenders rather than looking for a pass. He is more of a box-to-box midfielder than the classic Barcelona player and thus will give them a different option. Barcelona occasionally have lacked grit and tenacity in their midfield. At their best that didn’t matter because they were playing teams off the park and dominating to such an extent that they rarely had to fight and dig in to win games.
In tougher European games Paulinho’s physicality and presence should help them to match up against sides like Juventus who outmuscled Barcelona in dumping them out of the Champions League. The best teams at the moment have a mixture of steel and silk, with Real Madrid’s midfield of Casemiro, Modric and Kroos perhaps being the best example, Paulinho can bring more steel to Barcelona’s silky midfield.
Zlatan Ibrahimović famously wrote in his book, I am Zlatan, that at Barcelona, “The whole gang – they were like schoolboys.” Barcelona has never really been a place for big egos, especially in the post-Ronaldinho era. Barcelona were falling apart under Frank Rijkaard, and Graham Hunter wrote in his book about Barcelona that, “their form fell off a cliff, standards were ripped up,” towards the end of Rijkaard’s reign. Star players were being given too many concessions and were not training or playing properly.
Since then, Barcelona have worked hard to foster an atmosphere of respect and diligence. Paulinho fits firmly within this, an official from Guangzhou wrote about a number of gestures Paulinho had made at the club stating that, “few are as generous and broad minded as him.” He will fit in perfectly to their club culture.
Paulinho is ready made:
Many are using Paulinho’s age against him; they feel that at 29-years-old, Barcelona have spent €40 million on a player unlikely to improve and very unlikely to have any sell on value. However, Barcelona have spent a great deal of time and money recently on players with potential who have been unable to have the level of impact they need. Andre Gomes, in particular, was supposed to fulfil a similar role to Paulinho but was unable to make an impression.
Paulinho has a much greater bank of experience to draw on, not only has he played in the Premier League; he has forty-one caps for the Brazilian national team. Paulinho showed what he could do at the highest level with a hat-trick against Uruguay in Montevideo and appears the kind of player able to have an immediate impact. Paulinho will bring something different, has the right attitude and is unlikely to need an adaptation period and for these re