Barcelona: How will Paulinho fit tactically?

Barca have completed a £36.4 million for Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, but how does Ernesto Valverde plan to use him?

Barcelona have signed Brazilian midfielder Paulinho from Chinese outfit Guangzhou Evergrande.

The former Tottenham player has made the move from Canton to Catalonia, swapping the Chinese Super League for the La Liga.

Ernesto Valverde’s side will pay £36.4m to Guangzhou Evergrande, which is the highest amount ever paid to a Chinese team for a transfer.

Paulinho spent two years at Spurs between 2013-15 but failed to stamp his mark on the Premier League leading to a £10m move to China where he rejoined former Brazil boss, Luiz Felipe Scolari.

However, under Scolari, Paulinho has excelled in the China to become one of the outstanding players in the league. In the past two seasons, the Brazilian has won the Chinese Super League twice as well as the Asian Champions League in 2015.

“Paulinho is a player with high individual quality, he is an outstanding player, both for his club and for the national team,” said Evergrande head coach Scolari.

The former Corinthians midfielder played a total of 95 games for Evergrande scoring 25 goals, earning the respect of his teammates for his ability to dictate play and read the game.

“He is a second ahead of everyone else.” said former Celtic and Charlton midfielder, Zheng Zhi. “Sometimes in training, we will just watch him,”.

His achievements in China have also led to a recall the Brazilian national side after many thought his playing days for the national team were over.

Yet Paulinho has contributed heavily to Brazil’s World Cup qualifying campaign, playing in eight consecutive wins for his country. His best performance came in a  4-1 win over Uruguay earlier this year where he bagged a hat-trick.

Now, he has the chance to play at the highest level of club football again, competing for the Champions League and the La Liga with Barcelona.

Where does Paulinho fit?

It is unlikely that Paulinho will start with Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, and Andres Iniesta holding up the midfield for the Catalan side.

However, when he plays, Paulinho will offer stability in the centre of the pitch, allowing Iniesta to push further forward to play in a more dangerous and creative position just behind Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

At Atlético Bilbao, Valverde used the 4-2-3-1 as his favoured formation and he could look to instate this shape at his new club. Paulinho could slot in next to Busquets to offer extra cover to Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti, especially with Jordi Alba bombing down the left-flank so often leaving space in the left-back position.

Another option for Barca would be to play Busquets, Paulinho and Rakitic in the centre, allowing Iniesta to join Messi and Suarez in an attacking trio.

If Valverde’s team can close the deal to bring Philippe Coutinho to Catalonia, then he could also be added to the mix. The Liverpool star could join Messi and Suarez up top, leaving Iniesta to play in a deeper, Xavi-esque role, controlling the flow of the ball.

As for Paulinho, unfortunately for Barca, he will not be available for their second-leg Spanish Super Cup clash when they face Real Madrid. Yet, he will be able to join them for their first league match on against Real Betis if he passes his medical.

It may not have been the first player the Barca faithful expected to see with the capital raised from the Neymar mega deal but it is a solid step to rebuilding a strong squad to battle in domestic and European competitions, not just a first team.

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