The outcry from infuriated Barcelona fans when it was announced last summer that their club were signing Brazilian midfielder Paulinho was genuinely extraordinary.
Barça supporters, already sick to the back teeth of the club’s board, felt this signing was another dagger through the heart of everything the club was supposed to stand for.
Paulinho had spent the previous three seasons playing for Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League and had scored 28 goals in 95 appearances. He wasn’t fast, particularly gifted technically or, above all, a pass master.
Real Madrid had just won La Liga and the Champions League and had outclassed Barça over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup.
Their fans were expecting a world-class arrival to help them close the gap on their fierce domestic rivals, such as Philippe Coutinho. Instead they got Paulinho and they were furious.
Paulinho has exceeded expectations at the Camp Nou
Fast-forward six months, however, and it’s fair to say that Paulinho has exceeded all expectations at the Camp Nou.
He immediately struck up an excellent on-pitch relationship with Lionel Messi and scored a few big goals during the opening weeks of the season, which helped get some supporters on his side.
There will always be Barça fans who feel that Paulinho isn’t good enough to play for their club - but eight goals in 23 league matches is a very decent return.
Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have scored more goals for Barcelona this season.
Paulinho started against Eibar on Saturday afternoon, ahead of Coutinho, who eventually signed for the Catalan giants last month.
This was a surprise call by Ernesto Valverde because Paulinho is eligible to play against Chelsea in the Champions League on Tuesday evening, unlike Coutinho.
But it just goes to show how important Paulinho has become for the La Liga leaders.
Paulinho has broken a La Liga record
Following Barça’s 2-0 victory it emerged that Paulinho had actually broken a La Liga record.
Per Sport, the Brazil international has become the player to have played the most games in Spain’s top division without losing any (18 wins and five draws from 23 games).
Hands up who would have predicted Paulinho breaking a La Liga record at the beginning of the season. Remarkable.
Every Barcelona supporter who criticised Paulinho’s signing has been made to eat humble pie by the man himself.
Fair play to the guy.
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