Goal-scoring midfielder

Paulinho has drawn plaudits from across the world over the past year, first for his performances at the Confederations Cup in Brazil last summer and his subsequent displays at Tottenham Hotspur. By Charlie Scott.

Few Brazil internationals will have experienced relegation from the Lithuanian top division as a teenager, but one English Premier League star did just that.

Paulinho has drawn plaudits from across the world over the past year, first for his performances at the Confederations Cup in Brazil last summer and his subsequent displays at Tottenham Hotspur.

And the 25-year-old midfielder looks set to play a key role for Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil side as they look to win the 2014 World Cup on their own soil this summer.

But having already experienced distinct highs and lows in his career, the former Corinthians man knows not to take anything for granted.

Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he joined the youth set-up at local side Pao de Acucar as a 16-year-old. However, after trying and failing to force his way into the first team, he took the huge decision to leave Brazil and move to Lithuanian side FC Vilnius in 2006, at the age of 18.

Over the next two years he made 38 appearances for FC Vilnius, but his time at the club ended on a sour note in 2007 as they were relegated to the second division.

Paulinho left the club but stayed in Europe, signing for Polish top division club LKS Lodz. After a single season he decided he had had enough of Europe for the time being and returned to Brazil to join his first club Pao de Acucar in the summer of 2008.

An impressive season for Pao de Acucar saw the midfielder score seven times in 39 games, and caught the attention of second tier side Bragantino, who secured his signature in 2009.

After a slow start, his career really began to take off. Within a year of signing for Bragantino, some of Brazil’s top clubs began sniffing around and at the end of the 2009/10 season he joined Sao Paulo giants Corinthians.

Paulinho endeared himself to Corinthians’ fans by scoring a goal on his debut, a 4-2 win against their bitter rivals Santos, who had his future Brazil team-mate Neymar playing in attack at the time.

His rampaging performances in midfield in Brazil’s top division were not going unnoticed either, and in September 2011 he made his debut for the national side in a goalless draw against Argentina.

The then Brazil coach Mano Menezes identified Paulinho’s blend of speed, trickery and power and quickly made him one of the first names on the Selecao teamsheet.

Since making his debut for the five-time World Cup winners he has made regular appearances under Menezes and the current coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The energetic midfielder secured cult status at Corinthians with a string of dominant displays as the club won the 2011 league and the 2012 Copa Libertadores.

Named as part of Brazil’s 23-man squad for the 2013 Confederations Cup, Paulinho alerted Europe’s top teams to his talents with an equalising goal in the pre-tournament friendly against England and then some match-winning contributions during the competition itself.

He was awarded the Bronze Ball after being voted the third best player at the tournament.

Speaking afterwards to FIFA.com, he said: “It’s been a really rapid rise, from an individual point of view, so I have to make the most of this good period. Of course for that I’ll need my team-mates’ help and I’ll keep working hard for them too, trying to help us win more titles as well as keeping my place in the Brazil side.”

Fortunately for Tottenham fans the club signed Paulinho before he shone at the Confederations Cup, for a fee of GBP17 million.

An exquisite backheeled winner against Cardiff in October 2013 gave the Spurs fans a glimpse of things to come and the Brazilian has gone on to score a further five goals in his debut season at the club.

Both Brazil and Tottenham have been yearning for a goal-scoring central midfielder for years and in Paulinho their calls appear to have been answered.

“I like going forward because my dream was always to be as complete as I could get to in this game,” Paulinho said. “It should not be a huge surprise for people.”

Next up for the determined midfielder is the small matter of a World Cup on home soil this summer.

“It is impossible not to think about it. It is the dream of every player. Imagine winning the World Cup in your own country. It would be the happiest day of my career.”

Paulinho, who had to deal with racist abuse while playing in Lithuania and Poland as a teenager, married Barbara in 2007 and the couple have a young daughter.

FACTFILE Name: Paulinho Club: Tottenham Hotspur DOB: 25/7/1988 Brazil caps: 25 Brazil goals: 5 Position: Midfielder

Moment to remember: His winning goal against Uruguay in the semifinal of the Confederations Cup last summer.

Moment to forget: His red card against Liverpool in the EPL in December for a reckless challenge on Luis Suarez.

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