Barcelona's Paulinho shrugs off critics ahead of El Clasico

Having proved the critics wrong with six La Liga goals for leader Barcelona, Paulinho claims opinions about his ability do not worry him.

Paulinho faces his biggest test in the El Clasico, against a star-studded Real Madrid midfield.   -  Getty Images

Paulinho insists he has never been worried about what the critics say, the previously under-fire midfielder having helped Barcelona to move 11 points clear of Real Madrid in the Liga table ahead of Saturday's Clasico.

The Brazil international was the first Barcelona signing following the departure of his compatriot Neymar in a world-record €222 million move to Paris Saint-Germain, with many Blaugrana fans underwhelmed at his arrival.

Paulinho was then widely mocked after stumbling over tricks in his presentation following the completion of a surprise €40million switch from Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao.

But after hitting six league goals to be the most prolific midfielder in La Liga this season, striking a brace in a 4-0 defeat of Deportivo La Coruna last time out, Paulinho shrugged off stinging criticism ahead of Saturday's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

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"I've heard it said that I'm silencing the critics so many times but it's not that: I don't have to prove myself to anyone," Paulinho told the Guardian.

"I don't play for the critics, I play for my team-mates. For three, four years I haven't listened to anything. People always talk and always will - 'He's good now because he's at Barca', 'He was only good then because he was in China', blah, blah, blah.

"When I was at Bragantino and I went to Corinthians it was the same; it was the same at Tottenham and in China. I've had that since the beginning."

Before moving to China, where he won the AFC Champions League with Guangzhou, Paulinho was perceived to have flopped at Tottenham, having fallen out of favour under Mauricio Pochettino the season after Brazil's humiliation at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup.

"The problem was that this came after the World Cup, with me trying to get back to some normality," Paulinho said. "I was the last back [for pre-season] and to have gone out of the World Cup that way with Brazil at home...

"I've never talked much about that game: maybe once or twice, that's it. There's no point. You can lose a game by two or three and say: 'Oh we made this mistake, we made that mistake, we lost.' But if you lose 7-1, what can you say?

"It is something that can't happen. But it happened. And after that, I had to go back to my club. You have a full season ahead of you when [you hope] you can recover from losing a World Cup semi-final 7-1 at home.

"My first game [under Pochettino] is in my position but after that I played in every position apart from my own. If we play in a three, I'm here. If we play in a two, I'm here.

"He had a different system, and if you're not in your position in a football as competitive as England it's difficult. I was playing on the left wing: the manager put me there and I had to play there, because I wanted to play."

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Despite being pushed to the fringes at Spurs towards the end of his Premier League spell, Paulinho does not hold a grudge against Pochettino.

"I had no problem with Pochettino," Paulinho added. "I told him: 'This position is not mine but if you want I can play there.' But in the long term you're not going to be at your best and over the last six months I wasn't playing regularly.

"I thought the moment had come to leave. Where? I didn't know. But I wanted to leave. The coach wasn't trusting in me so there's no reason to stay."

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