Sometimes in life, it pays to take a step backwards in order to move forwards.
Only 18 months ago, he found himself sent on loan to Corinthians, having failed to live up to meet expectations after making a €6 million move from Ponte Preta a year-and-a-half previous. His first season was dogged by injury while he was totally frozen out in his second.
Little wonder the 27-year-old, who started the 2018-19 season by inauspiciously earning a red card after just 13 minutes of a 2-0 loss to Strasbourg, was so emotional about his surprise call up. “I’m going to cry when I pull on my jersey," he said.
“I was surprised when I got the call. I didn’t think I had a chance. My dad called me and said: ‘You’re in the national team!’ I said: ‘Is it a joke, Dad?’ It was true. I cried a lot and shouted with my wife. It was the best.”
A friendly against Saudi Arabia provided the stage for the 27-year-old, picked ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s Thiago Silva by Tite, to achieve what once appeared an impossible dream. Flanked by PSG’s Marquinhos and Ligue 1 alumnus Fabinho, he played the duration of the fixture, which was won 2-0.
Pablo admits that it has been a steep learning curve since moving to France, initially in August 2015, but he believes that it has all been worth it.
“My arrival in Bordeaux was very complicated,” he told the media. “The football, the culture, how to adapt… I was young, I needed to have more experience.
“When I came back after the loan, I was stronger. Now I love France.”
Pablo, who won the Brazilian championship with Corinthians and was named the competition’s outstanding defender, took advantage of circumstances to make his mark upon his Ligue 1 return.
He found a very different Bordeaux when he came back. Jocelyn Gourvennec, the coach who overlooked him, had been sacked and replaced by Uruguayan Gus Poyet, who took command of a side in the midst of a defensive crisis. He needed a reliable player who was strong in the air, and Pablo fit the bill.
He offers a strong blend of defensive attributes. Of course, his aerial strength may be the most obvious of these, but he covers ground impressively for a bulky player standing at over 6 foot 1.
Now able to make the most of his strengths, the 27-year-old rapidly became a mainstay of a team that swept up the table and into Europe, earning a new contract that runs until 2021 in the process.
Poyet may be gone, but his status in the team has been secured thanks to his robust defensive play. He is a different player than the one who first arrived in France, while the arrival of countryman Ricardo Gomes as de facto head coach will only further secure his importance.
“Staying at Bordeaux this summer was a choice for my family by also a sporting one because Bordeaux is a big club and it gives me more visibility to play for the Selecao,” he said, his choice thoroughly vindicated.
“Now I’m here, the most difficult thing will be to stay here. I don’t just want to join the squad once.”
And Pablo is under no illusions that it will be difficult to hold down a place in the most storied national side in the world. He has personally pinpointed his use of the ball as a weakness that he needs to improve, but in terms of raw defensive abilities, there are few better.
His perseverance, however, may be his greatest strength, showing remarkable character to overcome his early setback in France to make the most of the Ligue 1 stage and achieve a seemingly impossible dream.