Bayer Leverkusen have recently announced the signing of Vasco’s young star Paulinho on a contract until 2023.
The young winger was also wanted by Bayern Munich but he chose Leverkusen as it is believed he will have more playing time there and the club are also regarded as a good shop window, allowing their players to move to bigger teams in the future.
Indeed, other Brazilian players like Zé Roberto, Juan and Lúcio had successful spells at Leverkusen before moving to top European clubs, which also influenced Paulinho’s decision to choose the club, despite interest from Bayern.
Paulinho is widely regarded as one of the three best 17-year-old players in Brazil, alongside Santos player Rodrygo, and Flamengo’s Vinícius Júnior.
Leverkusen had been following him since the South American Under 15 Championship in 2015, when he was still playing as a striker, he scored three goals in the tournament.
Paulinho was a huge success at Vasco, making his professional debut in July 2017, when he was still 16-years-old, and quickly becoming the first player born in 2000 to score in the Brazilian national league, when he netted two goals against Atlético Mineiro a few days later.
He replicated this achievement in Copa Libertadores, when he scored one Vasco’s goals in their win against Universidad de Concepción earlier this year. His success continued in 2018, when he won the best player award of the Rio de Janeiro State Championship, even though Vasco were beaten by Botafogo in the final.
Leverkusen will have in Paulinho a player that can play as a winger and as an attacking midfielder, he is a player with good speed, technique and dribbling skills, and his finishing is decent.
Paulinho is not a tall player but he seems able to learn how to handle a more physical game and should adapt eventually to the style played in Germany. Given how fast he became one of Vasco’s key players, Leverkusen have good reasons to expect him to adapt quickly and have a successful spell at the club.
Manager Milton Mendes, who promoted him to Vasco’s senior team last year, told Brazilian press that Paulinho has great possibilities of succeeding in Germany, that people abroad will like him and that he will be in a country that fits what he wants. The manager has advised him to continue being the person he currently is and that it won’t take long for him to move to a bigger club.
Time will tell if Paulinho will be a sound investment for Leverkusen, but his age and his quick development since last year give good reasons for optimism.
By Paulo Freitas.