The World broke out in laughter when Barcelona announced the signing of Paulinho for a whopping €40 million. A 29-year-old player who had flopped in England with Tottenham and migrated to the salary-friendly Chinese league. Though he was a starter with the Brazilian national team (and one of the team’s leading goal scorers in qualifying), his talent wasn’t exactly eye opening. Many, including him, probably thought he would play the remaining years of his career in China. That was until Josep Bartomeu, for some strange reason, wanted to bring him to Barcelona. Despite the banter that his transfer caused, could it be that Paulinho is now a risk-free transfer who has nothing to lose? Let me explain.
In his first three games, Paulinho has managed to score two goals including a game winner against a tricky Getafe. On paper, it appears as if he’s quickly adapting to the team and is proving critics wrong. However, anyone who truly watched the game will understand that he was far below the level of his teammates. Constantly out of position, little contribution and just simply out of control in the midfield. It’s no surprise really. We knew this would happen. Yet somehow, he’s been having a Cristiano-like season where his bad games are ignored because he scores.
The World expected Paulinho to be vastly inferior to his teammates. In other words, before he even stepped foot onto the field, the bar was set so low that anything could easily exceed expectations. Imagine if Dembele or even Neymar in 2013 had performances like that, the media would have roasted them claiming that it’s not enough. The bar was set so high for them that they needed to exceed and more just to meet that expectation. Paulinho has forgettable games but scores and suddenly everyone loses it. It’s so simple for him.
His scoring run will end (probably sooner than later) and he’ll become just another useless player in Barcelona’s midfield. But that’s just what we expected. If he has an atrocious season, no one will be surprised. Anything better than “atrocious” will be considered a victory not just for Paulinho but for the board who brought him in.
He’s not the solution to Barcelona’s problems. He won’t replace Neymar on the wing. He won’t be a replacement for Iniesta going forward. He won’t bring that creativity to the midfield. He won’t even be able to replace Busquets as CDM. Just like Andre Gomes, he was brought in for reasons which we don’t understand. Sure his price tag was a bit much but so is everyone’s in this transfer market. Had he been worth €15 mil, I’m sure the narrative would’ve changed. A mediocre player that can somehow produce positive things in random bursts during the season. With a bar so low that anything other than garbage is considered a victory.
Welcome to Barcelona, Paulinho. All we ask from you is to be mediocre and not trash. That’ll be enough.