By Tom Webber
"It has all happened so fast," Paulinho admitted to Fifa.com in September 2012. "I just hope things continue in the same vein." And he may well get his wish with Inter ready to step up their interest in the 24-year-old after they have completed the sale of Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool.
The sought-after Brazil international is close to putting an end to months of speculation over his future by finally signing for the Nerazzurri, bringing to a close his successful love affair with Corinthians. But things have not always been easy for a player who, after an unorthodox start to his career, has reached the big-time through sheer grit and fortitude.
Selecting football over Futsal as a youngster proved to be the correct choice as, at the tender age of 17, Paulinho made the fabled move across the Atlantic Ocean that many Brazilian youngsters dream about - the destination of Lithuanian side FC Vilnius, perhaps not so much. Nevertheless, he made 38 appearances for the now-defunct capital side before transferring to Poland's LKS Lodz. The midfielder attempted to adapt to a new and very different style of football and culture, but subsequently decided to head back to Brazil in 2008 in order to re-establish himself.
After starring in the fourth-tier of the Sao Paulo state championship with Pao de Acucar (now known as Audax), Paulinho was picked up by Serie B outfit Bragantino. More graft warranted interest from top flight clubs two years later, but the driven Brazilian had already decided his destination - Corinthians.
From there his career has remained on an upward trajectory. He is a determined, hard-working and focused professional and his personality transcends his game - he is the embodiment of professionalism. It is those very attributes that saw him become a fixture in a steely Corinthians midfield alongside Ralf. The pair were an integral part of the well-oiled Musketeers who lifted the 2011 Brasileirao before adding Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup titles. The latter of which came after the Sao Paulo native refused a move to San Siro in order to participate in the competition.
MIDFIELDER | CORINTHIANS
A powerful runner, Paulinho comes into his own in the transition. Playing as what is known in Brazil as a segundo volante - a box-to-box midfielder - his energy and dynamism can provide the heartbeat to any side. He always has his head up, keen to pick out one of his team-mates and involve them in the action with a simple yet effective pass.
Nowhere was his influence more key than in the Libertadores final first leg against Boca Juniors. Unfazed by the raucous atmosphere inside La Bombonera, the Sao Paulo-born midfielder's counterattacking runs were the main reason Corinthians provided any sort of threat. His tackle and charge from deep put the wheels in motion for another ex-Bragantino youngster, Romarinho, to grab the headlines with a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw.
Such a work-rate has earned him high praise among his colleagues, with Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva hailing his international team-mate: "Paulinho provides pace, strength and quality goals in the middle of the park. He should be our number one target."
And as the former AC Milan man states, Paulinho is by no means just a runner. He also contributes an impressive amount of goals from midfield. Eight strikes from a deep-lying role as Corinthians charged to the Brasileirao title in 2011 was a magnificent return. Indeed the only reason he did not match that tally the following season was because his form had been deemed sufficient to represent his country under Mano Menezes. Even so, the midfielder still racked up an impressive seven goals in just 23 league appearances.
|"Paulinho provides pace, strength and quality goals in the middle of the park. He should be our number one target"
- Thiago Silva
Consistently solid performances for the Selecao have put him well in contention for a starting spot come the next World Cup, and Paulinho only has himself to thank. Although new Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has openly admitted that he will opt for more experienced players, the 24-year-old is not the kind to rest on his laurels: "To be an idol I have to do more. To always be improving and playing well."
With such an attitude there is no reason that Paulinho cannot continue the immense progress of the past two years, and Inter can provide him with the perfect platform to do just that. Nerazzurri fans will surely take to their new Brazilian quickly, and there is no doubting he will do all he can to make his time in Milan a success. The club may be in transition, but Paulinho can be the perpetual force to drive them back to the top once more.