Since Andre Villas Boas took control of Tottenham Hotspurs last summer, he has made some very important signings for the club, with a large amount of those aimed at strengthening the midfield. However, although Dembele has shined, and Holtby looks good, the ‘failures’ of Dempsey and Sigurdsson to live up to the expected standards as well as the injuries and loss of form for Sandro and Parker have left the Spurs midfield looking light. On occasion the best player in the middle of the park for the London club has been Jake Livermore, but at this stage in his career it would be grossly unfair to put the pressure on him. AVB’s answer to his midfield issues? Paulinho.
Paulinho, or Jose Paulo Bezerra Maciel Junior to give him his full name, is seen as a strong box to box midfielder, with powerful forward runs nicely complimenting his excellent defensive work. Perfect as part of a three man midfield or as part of the holding two in a 4-2-3-1 formation, I imagine he will fit seamlessly into Tottenham’s current formation, possibly with Dembele and Sandro as the other two midfielders. This would allow Dembele to push forward into a more attacking role, similar to how he played at Fulham, while his work rate would certainly ease Sandro’s defensive responsibilities and enable Spurs to keep the ball more efficiently.
In his early career, Paulinho was not always a great success, and he spent a few seasons in Lithuania and Poland in an attempt to break into the European scene. But when he returned to Brazil, he got spotted by Corinthians whilst playing for Bragantinos. During his time with the Sao Paolo giants, he gained a reputation as a goalscoring midfielder, almost averaging a goal every 4 games, a similar record to Scholes in his prime, or Lampard and Gerrard in the Premier League at the moment. Indeed he has a habit of scoring important goals in big games for the club, including a goal on his debut and the only goal in a Copa Libertadores quarter final tie with 3 minutes to go of the second leg to send them through. The Brazil midfielder became someone of a cult hero for his club during three very successful years at the club, including playing in the Club World Cup final where they beat Chelsea 1-0.
After his first season with Corinthians, the midfielder received his first call up to the Brazil squad and over the last two years has made himself indispensable to Scolari. This was very much in evidence during the Brazil national teams recent successful Confederations Cup campaign where Paulinho was arguably Brazil’s second most effective player behind Neymar, and scored a couple of goals, including the winner in the semi-final against rivals Uruguay. In fact he won the Bronze Ball award for the third best player in the tournament, only behind the outstanding Neymar and the irrepressible Iniesta.
Having come to prominence to most Tottenham fans, and indeed most English football fans, with the equaliser against England in the Maracana during the 2-2 friendly, his performances in the Confederations Cup will have shown many Spurs fans that they have a lot to be excited about next season. The combination of his late bursting runs into the box and beyond the strikers, his ability to defend and his work rate, and his ability to link attacks together, create for others, and finish chances himself means that he will be a name to watch out for on the Spurs team sheet. Expect him to make an impression quickly, while at just £17 million for a player who will only improve, AVB may well have just made the signing of the summer so far and if they can find a striker and keep Bale, Spurs will be a real force to be reckoned with in the Premier League next season. I make them outsiders for a title challenge, and right in the mix for Champions League qualification.