José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Júnior


Team: Guangzhou Evergrande
Age: 28
Position: Central midfielder
Nationality: Brazil
Former team: Tottenham Hotspur
Nickname: Paulinho

Paulinho has not had an easy route to Guangzhou and China. Most will know him from his Tottenham days, or maybe even have watched him in his homeland before he came to England, at his former club Corinthians.

But what most won’t know is that he’s also had a spell in European football’s backyard of the Lithuanian top flight, the A Lyga, before moving to the slightly better neighbourhood of the Polish Ekstraklasa.

After failing to break through in his homeland of Brazil Paulinho made a bold choice by stepping out into the unknown and joined Lithuanian A Lyga side FC Vilnius in 2006, at the age of 17. He had a good first season in the country playing 17 games and scoring twice as Vilnius secured a seventh place in the league consisting of 10 teams.

The next season was also a good one for Paulinho. He played 21 games and scored three times as Vilnius once again secured a seventh place.

The 2007 season was the last for Vilnius as Paulinho moved to Poland and LSK Lodz. Lodz had finished the previous Ekstraklasa season in ninth position, comfortably mid-table in the 16-team league.

Paulinho found himself in and out of the Lodz squad in his one and only season in Poland. He started 13 games and was substituted in on four occasions as Lodz once again finished around mid-table, this time down in 11th.

After the season finished in Poland Paulinho returned to Brazil and the club he left in 2006, Pão de Açúcar Esporte Clube (today known as Audax or GO Audax) in the summer of 2008.

Little is known from his time back at Pão de Açúcar and he moved again after only half a year, this time to join Serie B side Bragantinos. He helped them to a mid-table finish as he played 28 matches and scoring six goals. His performances were outstanding and he got the attention of Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians who bought him in May 2010.

He spent the first season at Corinthians settling in and played 13 games from the start and was substituted in in another 14. He also scored four times.

In the 2011 season Paulinho established himself in the Corinthians midfield and played 35 of the 38 games that season as Corinthians won the league. His goal and assist tally was his highest to date, with 8 goals and 4 assists.

In the 2012 season he continued to play great and was a huge part in Corinthians winning the Copa Libertadores title for the first time. But the continental success took its toll on the league performances as Corinthians finished down in sixth place.

Later that year he also helped Corinithans win the Club World Cup for the second time beating Chelsea 2-0 in the final.

Then came the move to Tottenham in 2013. On his arrival Paulinho was hailed as the next great thing, but a decline in performance, perhaps also helped on by Brazil’s fiasco in the World Cup at home in 2014, saw him sent off to China in 2015 for a loss of roughly £5 million for Spurs.

He helped Guangzhou Evergrande win the AFC Champions League for the second time and the league title for the fifth time in a row.

In his first full season at Guangzhou last year he helped the team to retain the league title as well as winning the Chinese FA Cup and the Super Cup. Paulinho played almost all the matches for Guangzhou that season only missing out on one game in the AFC Champions League against Sydney as Guangzhou tumbled out of the group stage of the competition.

Despite him playing almost every single match for Guangzhou the fans and media have felt that Paulinho has more to contribute. With a total of 47 games last season and a decent goal scoring record of 13 from his midfield position, it is in the assist department that Paulinho lacks. With players like Jackson Martinez in front of him you would expect Paulinho to get more than the 3 assists he has had so far in his Super League career. That’s one assist every 15 games.

This season he has 1 assist in 6 games so far and he can hopefully add to that and give Guangzhou fans even more to cheer about as they look to take the Chinese Super League title for the seventh year in a row.