Is Paulinho really the ideal player for Barcelona?
"It goes without saying that we'll bolster the squad in the positions we need and that they'll be big-name signings." - Barcelona sporting director Roberto Fernandez
Enter Paulinho, stage right. Although this is oddly out of left field.
After a long summer of speculation, Barcelona finally confirmed that they had signed Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande for a fee of €40m. Weeks of haggling over the transfer fee did not wear down the Chinese Super League club and the La Liga giants finally gave in and paid the release clause in full to sign the 29-year-old midfielder on a four-year deal.
What is ironic is that a player for whom they initially bid just €20m now comes with a release clause in his contract to the tune of €120m. Of course, it is a routine the Catalan club have followed for years but they can rest assured that absolutely no other European club is going to pay a nine-figure sum for this Brazilian.
This is by no means an ordinary transfer. It has left a number of fans scratching their heads with many baying for Barca president Josep Bartomeu's blood. The mere mention of Paulinho now leaves fans incensed and resigned to another season of failure.
In a transfer market where most top clubs are buying the cream of the crop, Barcelona's fourth signing of the summer seems like an anomaly - two steps back rather than a step forward.
So what's the deal on 'Spurs reject' Paulinho and why did Barcelona spend time and resources to pursue his signature?
Why Paulinho became a Tottenham 'reject'
To first understand why Paulinho failed to make it in the Premier League, we need to go back four years to when Tottenham Hotspur paid Brazilian side Corinthians close to £17m for his services.
Back then he was already a regular in the Brazilian squad and had proved his worth as a box-to-box midfielder who regularly found the back of the net - be it for club or country.
A record signing at the club on his arrival, he seemed to fit the bill, scoring a couple of winners for the Lilywhites in his early days at White Hart Lane. He even managed to finish the season with 8 goals, securing his place in the lineup.
Then came Mauricio Pochettino who had no use for the Brazilian. Quite simply put, he did not know how to utilise Paulinho. The midfielder had his qualities, but he wasn't exactly outstanding in any particular department, especially his creativity.
He simply couldn't cut it under the Argentine manager and even ended up being voted as the club's 'worst player in history'. The best way to use Paulinho is to play him alongside a midfielder who is strong on the ball; one who can act as a foil to allow him to make his famous forward runs.
That is the exact opposite of what Pochettino demands in a central midfielder; which is why you now see players like Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama in the middle of the park - both excellent dribblers of the ball who can advance it to forward areas.
Luiz Felipe Scolari came to Paulinho's resuce and the CSL's wages on offer were too good to resist. Thus, Paulinho was sold to Guangzhou Evergrande for a mere £9.9m.
Why did Barcelona sign Paulinho?
Your guess is as good as mine. Make no mistake, Paulinho is a decent player as I explained earlier. He could have been an effective player (say, for a mid-table club in the Premier League) if a manager played to his strengths.
But he is nowhere close to the level of a top European club such as Barcelona. Come to think of it, the negatives far outwiegh the benefits of such a signing for the Camp Nou club.
There are umpteen reasons why Paulinho is a square peg in a round hole at Barcelona.
For a club that thrives on its players having an impeccable first touch, Paulinho's heavy first touch will eventually see Barcelona lose a lot of possession. He has been dispossessed more times than any other Barcelona midfielder - and that's when you compare his stats from his stint in China.
He cannot control the pace of the game like Sergio Busquets. He cannot dictate play from midfield like Xavi. He is not a creative fulcrum around which Barcelona can build their attacks.
At 29, he is far too old to be developed into a Barcelona player. As the club look to return to their old philosophy following Luis Enrique's exit, Paulinho is the exact opposite of the type of player they should have signed.
Besides, Barcelona may not profit from this move in the long run. He will be on high wages and by the time his contract ends he will be 33 with absolutely no resale value.
He earned close to €100,000 per week in China. Assuming that he will not take a wage-cut on his return to Europe, he will be earning more than the Barca regulars such as Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti.
And Valverde may even use him only as a squad player - not what Paulinho would want in a World Cup year. He has established himself in the Brazil squad under Tite's new regime but that is because he has Casemiro behind him and Renato Augusto beside him in a 4-3-3 formation that gives him freedom to move - unlike Barcelona where he will most likely be deployed in a deeper role.
In truth, this looks like another Arda Turan in the making. Back then the club had spent €27m to sign him (only to register him six months later as they served a transfer ban) and the Turkish midfielder never established himself as a regular. He, too, was pocketing close to €95,000 per week.
When big-money signings were promised, the last thing Barcelona fans expected was for the club to be pioneers in signing players who excelled in the Chinese Super League.
They could have bid for someone like Marco Verratti - who practically sent out a plea to the PSG higher-ups to allow him to move to Spain. But the Barcelona board dithered and then had their hands full before they were effectively tied in the Neymar saga.
With many top quality players available on the market for the right price, especially in Europe, it is a baffling signing that follows a long line of failed transfers made by the board since Bartomeu came to power in 2014.