Bayer Leverkusen have beaten off competition from a host of top European clubs to secure the services of highly rated Brazilian teenager Paulinho from Vasco da Gama.
The 17-year-old will join Die Werkself this summer – after his 18th birthday on 15 July – and has penned a deal through to 2023 with the North Rhine-Westphalia club.
"The signing of Paulinho is a huge success for us," Leverkusen CEO Michael Schade enthused on the club's official website. "I'm happy we have been able to continue our special Brazilian tradition, which highlights Bayer Leverkusen's presence in South America."
So, as the German top flight prepares to welcome its latest bright young thing, bundesliga.com trains the microscope on a player who has already been dubbed 'the next Kaka'…
1) Flexible going forward
An attacking midfielder by trade, Paulinho is capable of playing on either wing, at No.10 or even as a centre-forward. The Brazil Under-20 international boasts an explosive combination of speed, skill and strength, and he is just as capable of providing a defence-splitting pass as he is finding the back of the net.
"The lad has quickly shown us what he can do with his technical ability, dynamism, assertiveness and goal threat," explained Leverkusen manager Jonas Boldt, the man who convinced Paulinho that Bayer was the club for him. "We're convinced we can integrate him quickly and we're looking forward to seeing another great player in a Leverkusen shirt."
2) The Brazilian connection
Paulo Henrique Sampaio Filho – to call him by his full name – will be looking to follow in the footsteps of some of Brazil's most illustrious exports when he arrives at Leverkusen this summer. The 17-year-old, who could soon be lining up alongside his compatriot Wendell, has clearly done his homework when it comes to Leverkusen's rich Brazilian heritage.
"Emerson, Lucio, Jorginho, Ze Roberto and Juan were fantastic players whose global career started at Bayer," he declared. "The club has a great reputation back home, and everybody knows Leverkusen as a place where a lot of Brazilians have been happy. I think it's important to fully consider a move abroad, which is why I've chosen a club that works seriously and still has great ambitions. I want to get to know the whole of Europe with Bayer."
3) A piece of Copa Libertadores history
Since making his top-flight debut for Vasco da Gama in July 2017 – two days before his 17th birthday – Paulinho has made 24 senior appearances, notching up five goals and three assists. In February, he even became the first player born in the 2000s to score at the Copa Libertadores, in a 6-0 aggregate victory over Universidad de Concepcion. Unfortunately, his prodigious run of form was abruptly halted in early April, as he suffered a broken arm in a group-stage match against Cruzeiro.
"We reckon Paulinho will have recovered by the middle of July," Boldt said. "He should be fully fit when he joins us."
4) Grander ambitions
Prior to his injury, Paulinho had attracted the attention of some of Europe's biggest clubs, but it should perhaps come as no surprise that he has chosen to join Leverkusen. The Bundesliga is renowned for giving youngsters the opportunity to develop and mature – both on and off the pitch – while Die Werkself are on course for a return to Europe after last season's highly disappointing 12th-placed finish.
"I want to play in the Champions League and continue to improve myself," he explained. "During our discussions I was presented to the club, the team and individual players. It's a great young team. I'm sure I'll feel at home here and be successful.
"I'm very happy my move to Leverkusen has been completed," he continued. "It's a dream come true for me to play in Europe. Leverkusen can offer me excellent opportunities to develop my game and I want to keep playing the way you're all used to seeing me play in order to make the club even bigger and better."
5) At home in Auriverde
Leverkusen's latest acquisition may be some way off representing the Seleção, but he has already starred in a Brazil shirt for the country's youth teams. In March 2017, he helped the U17s win the CONMEBOL South American Championship, scoring a screamer against Venezuela in the group stage and the opening goal in a 5-0 thrashing of hosts Chile in the final.
He also fired in a glorious winner as Brazil defeated Germany 2-1 in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U17 World Cup – after Hamburg starlet Jann-Fiete Arp had opened the scoring – although Carlos Amadeu's side would go on to lose 3-1 to Jadon Sancho's England in the semi-finals.
"It was a beautiful strike," the Brazil coach said of Paulinho's effort against Germany. "He has a knack of scoring big goals in moments like this, just like he did against Venezuela.”
Like Arp and Sancho – and Christian Pulisic before them – Paulinho will be looking to take the Bundesliga by storm when he settles on the banks of the Rhine this summer. Given his remarkable talent and taste for the big occasion, you wouldn't bet against him.