Why Paulinho can be an unexpectedly great partner for Lionel Messi

Paulinho landed at Barcelona after the Blaugranas agreed to pay his whopping €40 million release clause to his previous club, Guangzhou Evergrande from the Chinese Super League. After weeks of endless speculation and an even more significant amount of negative opinions from the vast majority of fans and media, it is clear that the Brazilian was going to face plenty of adversity as soon as he landed at the Camp Nou.

While it is obviously still early days in the season, Paulinho is slowly but surely establishing himself not only as a valid player for Barcelona, but also a real contender to break into Ernesto Valverde's starting lineup on a weekly basis. The Brazilian international's two goals in his last two matches have certainly contributed to Barcelona's impressive start to their La Liga campaign and, judging by his effective performance against Eibar, his presence in the team is very likely to remain a constant for the remainder of the season.

As our The Barcelona Podcast listeners are fully aware of, I was very critical of Paulinho's signing based on his age (29, previous experience in European football (flopped terribly at Tottenham) and hefty price-tag. While I am still not fully won over by his style and how it relates to the traditional Barca model, nobody can deny that his athleticism, stamina and effort are all ingredients that his teammates are already benefiting from.

Against Eibar, the Brazilian international rounded another memorable performance by powerfully heading Barcelona's second to the back of the net, enabling the team's fourth goal and contributing to a quick one-two with Lionel Messi ahead of the Catalans' fifth.

Paulinho's connection with Messi was, undoubtedly, one of the most surprising elements in Barca's spectacular 6-1 hammering of Eibar. With Luis Suarez watching the game from the bench while recharging batteries for our next game, Messi took advantage of Paulinho's verticality and ability to run decisively towards goalscoring positions, enhancing his own performance in the process.

We analysed Paulinho's improvement, as well as Johan Cruyff's legacy and Dembele's absence, in our latest episode of The Barcelona Podcast. Just hit Play, sit back and enjoy!