Paulinho has revealed in an interview with El Periodico that, prior to the Brazilian’s arrival to Camp Nou, Lionel Messi asked him if he was going to sign for FC Barcelona.
"I was getting ready to take a free kick in a game between Brazil and Argentina. Suddenly, I saw Messi behind me getting closer bit by bit, and he says 'Are we going to Barcelona or not?' I said, ‘if you want to bring me there, you can. I'll go."
During the interview, Paulinho recalled his life, growing up in Brazil, going to play in Lithunia and Poland before going back to Brazil, and then playing for a lower-league club before getting his first big break: joining up with current Brazil coach Tite in Corinthians.
He transferred to Tottenham Hotspur, where he admits things didn’t go as planned, which precipitated his move to China. "I knew that going to China was like disappearing off the face of the Earth,” he said, ”but it was clear in my mind. I needed to play, wherever, it didn't matter."
He had a successful period playing for Guangzhou Evergrande, and when Barcelona came calling, he said it was a "unique opportunity" and he asked his coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, to let him go.
Paulinho says that chat with Messi clued him in that the Catalan giants wanted to sign him up. After speaking with Messi, he admitted he was affected: “I was so nervous I told Willian, 'you take the free kick. After that match, I exchanged shirts with Messi. He didn't let me take the free kick, but I'm here."