Leading a generation - Why Leverkusen's NxGn talent Paulinho is a future star

The 18-year-old is the superstar of a potential golden age of Brazilian football and ready to follow in a fine tradition at the BayArena

No country in world football produces talent at the rate of Brazil, but even the five-time world champions are excited about by their Generation 2000.

Led, inevitably, by posterboy Vinicius Junior after his incredible move to Real Madrid, a potential golden generation proved their potential as they ripped through the South American Under-17 championship in 2017.

This year they come of age, though while most eyes are locked firmly on Madrid, many back home may well be more interested in what’s happening over in the Bundesliga.

After all, when Flamengo refused to release Vinicius for the Under-17 World Cup later that year, it was new Bayer Leverkusen sensation Paulinho who led the Selecao’s charge to a third-placed finish, hitting winners against both Spain and Germany at India 2017.

Paulinho - Bayer Leverkusen - 23/07/2018

By that point he’d already made his senior debut as a 16-year-old after rising through the ranks at Vasco da Gama and quickly showed his pedigree by becoming the first player born in the 2000’s to score a goal in the Copa Libertadores. 

“This is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication. At 17, no one can really expect to be here,” Paulinho told Goal after making the NxGn Top 50 – Goal’s annual list of the best teenagers in world football.

"My future will depend on what I do today. I’m working to ensure I sustain a good period in my career and will do everything I can to achieve my goals.”

He could hardly have picked a better place than Leverkusen, who are delighted to have captured one of game’s most promising youngsters for a potential snip at €20 million.

"The lad has quickly shown us what he can do with his technical ability, dynamism, assertiveness and goal threat," Leverkusen Director of Football Jonas Boldt told the Bundesliga. "We're convinced we can integrate him quickly and we're looking forward to seeing another great player in a Leverkusen shirt."

Many of those greats have been Paulinho’s compatriots. And the youngster is well aware of the great Brazilian tradition he is hoping to emulate at the club.

Paulinho Samsung GFX 11092018

"Emerson, Lucio, Jorginho, Ze Roberto and Juan were fantastic players whose global career started at Bayer," Paulinho said. 

"The club has a great reputation back home, and everybody knows Leverkusen as a place where a lot of Brazilians have been happy.”

And he is doing everything to ensure he enjoys his time with the club every bit as much as they did. While many of his young former colleagues are have quickly embraced all the world has to offer top professional’s away from the game, Paulinho’s apparent sense of professionalism continues to impress. Hardly surprising as he wears the no.7 shirt and cites Cristiano Ronaldo as an inspiration.

He started learning German as soon as he arrived in Europe and he insisted his personal trainer in Rio move with him to Leverkusen. With the likes of Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Leon Bailey all seemingly ahead of him in the pecking order right now, Paulinho has made do with a cameo role as this season’s Bundesliga kicked off, but there seems little chance of him remaining on the bench for much longer.

And Leverkusen have every right to be just as excited as Brazil are about a new generation.