Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Paulinho has had a strange journey throughout his career. Purchased for Spurs from Corinthians in 2013 for £17m as part of the “Bale Seven,” he never seemed to fulfill his potential in the Premier League. When Mauricio Pochettino was hired, Paulinho was not one of the players that he considered to be in his plans, and he was eventually sold to Guanghzhou Evergrande for £10m.
But Paulinho’s career was far from finished. He was recalled to the Brazilian national team by Tite, and ended up with a career move to — of all clubs — Barcelona, where he became a fixture in the midfield. Now he’s starting in the World Cup in Russia.
Nobody seems more amazed by this journey than Paulinho himself, who has an article in the Player’s Tribune where he talks about his career and the birth of his twin children a few months ago. In that article, he finally opens up about his time at Spurs. He says that despite his anxiety over not playing football at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino, there was never a conflict between Paulinho and Poch, and that he only has good things to say about his time in north London.
I worked with [Brazil manager] Tite for four years at Corinthians, and it was a golden period in my life and in my work. When I eventually left to go play for Tottenham in the Premier League, I went through a difficult time in my second season, and a lot of people lost faith in me. But one person who always believed in me was Tite.
Actually, I would like to clear up something about my time at Spurs. I really cannot say a bad word about the club or the staff or the president. It is true that it was a very difficult period for me as a player, and there were times when I did not want to leave my apartment in London because I was so stressed about not playing. For a footballer, not playing is like a fish not being in the water. I felt as though I were suffocating. For whatever reason, I was not in Mauricio Pochettino’s plans. I didn’t fit his philosophy, I guess. But we never even had a disagreement. One day, I went to the club president and told him that if they got an offer close to what they paid for me, that I would like to move on. They were very professional about it.
In the summer, Spurs got a permanent offer from Guangzhou Evergrande, and I thought, “Why not?”
— Paulinho, The Players’ Tribune
Sometimes, things just don’t work out for whatever reason for a player at a particular club. It might not be a good fit, or there’s a managerial or tactics shift that changes things, or there’s something else going on. That seems to be what happened to Paulinho. He got a lot of stick for his performances both on this site and among the larger Tottenham fan base — I know I really gave Paulinho a hard time when he was with Spurs and was pretty glad to see him go.
What I like about these Players’ Tribune pieces is the way they humanize players and give further insights about their stories and their personal lives. Truth be told, I’m glad that Paulinho has had success in his career despite a bad playing experience at Tottenham. I’m also glad that he doesn’t seem to blame Spurs for what happened or have a wish to bad-mouth the club. It’s a classy move from him, and he’d be within his rights to talk about it if he hated his time in London.
Paulinho has every chance to make a deep run into this World Cup with Brazil in the coming days and weeks, starting today with a Round of 16 match against Mexico. If he does, he’d deserve it — he’s played very well this season at Barcelona and with Brazil in a system that meshes with his skill set. It’s nice to know that he’s found a place that works for him at this stage in his career.