Both the Albiceleste captain and Neymar did their bit in bringing the midfielder to Camp Nou, despite doubts over whether he would make the grade
Paulinho has revealed that Lionel Messi asked him to join Barcelona while the pair were battling against each other in an Argentina-Brazil clash.
The former Corinthians and Tottenham player was a surprise signing for the Catalans over the summer.
But he has made an instant impact since moving from Guangzhou, slotting effortlessly into the Barca midfield and netting three Liga goals to date to endear himself to the Camp Nou faithful.
According to the player, it was in an international friendly between the two South American giants where the transfer was first discussed.
“It was in the friendly in Australia. I had a free-kick, me and Willian were standing over the ball,” Paulinho recalled to Globoesporte.
“I was over the ball just to stand there, Willian was going to take it. Messi was far away. When Willian took aim I stepped back, he came over and said, ‘Let’s go to Barcelona’.
“I heard him and said, ‘If you want to take me there, I’m going.’ I mean, he is the best in the world and you hear words like that, it makes you happy, it makes you feel confident.
“Whatever the circumstances, playing alongside the best in the world is something I can tell my kids about. At that point I almost fell flat on my face but I kept playing!”
Despite the fact that he moved to Paris Saint-Germain, Paulinho revealed that Neymar too played a big part in the move.
“We spoke quite a bit when negotiations with Barcelona started,” he added.
“He always used to say, ‘You could come here, you’re going to like it, you’ll be happy. It’s great here.’ Of course he was always trying to make that true. It would be amazing for me to play with him at Barcelona, with all these great players.”
Paulinho’s arrival at Camp Nou was greeted with scepticism, with some observers questioning if he was good enough for Barcelona despite several strong seasons in the Chinese Super League.
But the 29-year-old affirmed that he has been happy to throw that criticism back at his doubters.
“It did not bother me. In the last three or four years I have learned not to care about what people say, the criticisms. Football without critics wouldn’t be football,” he said.
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“You get that in any club, anywhere in the world. Of course I heard criticism of the fee, that it’s too high, that I’ve come from Chinese football and all the rest, but at no point did it affect me.
“I was focused on doing my job and helping Barcelona because the club trusted in my work and sought me out to sign me. I have to work in the best way possible, as I have been doing, and forget about the rest.
“Football can change very fast. The only way I can show the doubters is on the field. Not for them, but for my team-mates, who are with me every day. We work to get good results. So I wasn’t affected one bit.”