There's been plenty of noise around Man United-bound Jadon Sancho in the last couple of years, but now could be the time for Bayer Leverkusen's Paulinho to take centre stage in the Bundesliga.
Here's the lowdown on Paulinho Henrique Sampaio Filho, or Paulinho for short.
📚 The story so far
The winger came through the ranks at Vasco da Gama and made his full debut for the club in July 2017, almost three years ago and three days before his 17th birthday. He bagged five goals & three assists in his first 24 appearances for the first team. A move to Leverkusen in the summer of 2018 followed after he became the first player born in the 2000s to score in the Copa Libertadores. No player directly contributed to more goals at the U23s' Summer 2020 Olympics qualifying campaign than Paulinho - he scored in three of Brazil's wins and assisted a further four goals at the tournament.
🇩🇪 His Leverkusen career so far
The Brazilian only made 13 Bundesliga appearances in 2019-20 but contributed three goals and two assists from a wide midfield role, including an assist in his first-ever Bundesliga start in a man of the match performance against Frankfurt.
Paulinho sustained a cruciate ligament rupture in July 2020 which cruelly ruled him out of almost the entire 2020-21 Bundesliga season. He did make his comeback against Borussia Dortmund on May 22nd this year, though, after 313 days on the sidelines. Fingers crossed he'll be fit and raring to go in the coming campaign.
🤺 Style & similarities
In style, he's quite similar to Alexis Sánchez. He likes to have possession of the ball and isn't scared to go back to the halfway line to fetch it and carry it forward. He's quick-footed and versatile, meaning that he can operate on either side of the attack or even through the centre.
He's an aggressive, forward-thinking player who likes to attempt plenty of killer passes and shots on goal. Paulinho is an all-rounded footballer who likes to be central to whatever is happening - he's hardworking, has a good range of passing and isn't shy of shooting from range.
"Paulinho is an interesting player. He's a good player. You can see that he can also play well in a central midfield role - especially in an attacking sense." - Ex-Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz.
🧐 Did you know?
Paulinho favours the same No.7 jersey that Cristiano Ronaldo has worn for the majority of his world-beating career with Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus and Portugal. He is also nicknamed 'PH7' in a nod to the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 'CR7' alias.
21 years old today, Paulinho will hope to impress under new Leverkusen boss Gerardo Seoane in a young and exciting Leverkusen side.