Last summer Brazilian giants Corinthians won the Libertadores Cup - local Champions League - for their first time. In epic displays, they beat, among others, former winners Vasco da Gama, defending champs Santos and mythical Boca Juniors in the final. The player that worried rivals in all these playoffs was no striker, no flamboyant playmaker: it was an almost 24-year-old defensive midfielder. The only one who can topple Ramires from Brazil's number 8 in the 2014 World Cup so far. Meet Paulinho, a footballer that can be effective in the back and creative in the front.
A few years ago, as a teenager, he had his spell in Europe. He spent the 2006 season at Lithuania's FC Vilnus and moved right after that to Poland's Lodz. His lack of rush to leave Brazil is also due to the terrible experience - with racism, of course - he had then. He developed as a player in 2010 at small Bragantino, well known locally for having good defensive midfielders. He came to Corinthians as a replacement for Elias, who left for Atletico Madrid in 2011. It took about three matches in starting lineup for Paulinho to feel at ease. He scored more than 20 goals in 120 matches so far.
His style reminds many people of Italy's Andrea Pirlo, the guy still who gives nightmares to English supporters. He isn't an aggressive defender and doesn't give many free kicks as he marks. He also makes many runs from the back, not only to score from the edge of the area, but also to give assists. He was also a calming presence in the midfield of the Brazilian champions last year. Last year, he reached the hero status after scoring the decider at the 87th minute of the playoff against Vasco in Libertadores Cup quarter-finals.
An icon in the club, he just renewed his contract until 2015 and has now the biggest wages in the Brazilian and South American champions. Paulinho has become unanimity in his country, but it is known he needs to play in Europe sometime to face tougher opposition.