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Paulinho shows why Barca bought him to pile pressure on Madrid

18:37 SAST 2017/09/16
Paulinho Barcelona
The Brazilian midfielder was widely written off before he kicked a ball for the Catalan club, but responded with a vital winner at Getafe on Saturday

The signing of Paulinho was received amid much pessimism by Barcelona fans who had hoped to see Marco Verratti brought in to strengthen their midfield. However, on Saturday, we saw just why the Blaugrana bought the Brazilian.

The former Tottenham midfielder was purchased for €40 million, an expensive fee for a 29-year-old playing in China, and there were boos and jeers at Camp Nou as he was unveiled the day after Barca's 5-1 Spanish Supercopa loss on aggregate to Real Madrid.

Getafe 10/3 to beat Celta

To make matters worse, the midfielder miscontrolled the ball as he tried to show his skills to the supporters, who showed their dissatisfaction by calling for the resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Poor Paulinho appeared to be a symbol of the troubled reign at Barca and a player seemingly unsuited to the Catalans' style of play, but he himself asked for time to prove himself for his new team.

"Everything I can do, I can do it by playing, so I will change the opinion of the people," he said. "The best way to respond is on the field, helping my team-mates, striving for victories. I am very mature and I do not think about [criticism], only about helping Barcelona win titles."

And he added: "I'm certain I can fit in at Barca and prove that all the effort they made to get me here was worth it. I know Barca have their own style and DNA but I think I can play here."

Against Getafe, Barca were in need of some inspiration and he provided it. Trailing at half-time to a wonder strike by Gaku Shibasaki and with Ousmane Dembele off with a hamstring injury, the signs were worrying for the Catalan club.

However, Ernesto Valverde sent on Denis Suarez for Andres Iniesta (who had started his sixth successive match for club and country) and the change worked, as the 23-year-old levelled with a superb strike. Later, the coach made another important switch when he introduced Paulinho for Ivan Rakitic.

While he may not be the elegant ball player Barca fans have so enjoyed in recent years, Paulinho's power, strength and ability to cover the pitch in a box-to-box role makes him different to any other midfielder at the club.

"I think Barcelona are going through some changes but Paulinho will surprise a lot of people with his strength and character," Pele said recently. On Saturday, Paulinho used his strength to storm into the Getafe area and hold off a strong challenge before beating Vicente Guaita with a powerful, angled finish late in the game.

That strike proved good enough for all three points and the pressure is now very much on Real Madrid as Barca move provisionally seven points clear of Los Blancos ahead of their tough trip to Anoeta on Sunday night to face in-form Real Sociedad.

It was for such moments that Barca bought Paulinho and if he can produce more of the same this season, the controversial €40m fee will not seem so expensive after all. Indeed, the vital victory at Getafe means he has already started paying back some of that money.