Paulinho: Neymar helped persuade me to make move to Barcelona
Brazil international Paulinho says compatriot Neymar played a huge role in his decision to seal a move to Barcelona this summer.
Paulinho joined Barca in August after two years playing for Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande.
He became the first player to arrive at the Camp Nou following the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million transfer.
"When the talks with Barca were going on, Neymar told me to come here and said that I would be happy here and I would like it," Paulinho told Globoesporte.
"He expressed encouragement so that my signing would be completed. He really helped me to come here and even though he ended up leaving, he told me that I would be happy at Barca."
Paulinho says Argentina captain Lionel Messi first put the thought of joining Barca in his head when the two faced each other in an international friendly in Melbourne on June 9.
"Willian and I were getting into position to take a free kick" the 29-year-old midfielder said. "I was closer to the ball but it was Willian that was going to take it. Messi was further away. When Willian got into position to kick the ball I stayed behind and he [Messi] came walking towards me and said, "Come to Barcelona." I looked at him and said, "If you want to take me, I'll go."
Paulinho says it is a dream to be able to play with five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi at Barca.
"I consider myself privileged to play alongside the best in the world," the former Tottenham player said. "Of course [Real Madrid's] Cristiano [Ronaldo] has his own merits, having won the Best [FIFA Men's Player] award, he is a great player and is of the highest level. But I feel very happy to play alongside the best in the world, that is Messi. I'm privileged."
Barca paid Guangzhou €40 million for Paulinho -- the fourth-highest transfer fee in the club's history. His signing was met with mixed emotions by Barca fans, with many having disapproved of his signing.
However, Paulinho has enjoyed a strong start at Barcelona, scoring three goals and setting up one more in 10 appearances for the La Liga leaders.
"Barcelona is going through a positive run and that helps," the Sao Paulo-born player said. "I'm making the most of the moment that I'm getting at Barcelona and I try to improve every day."
He is training not only with Messi but also Spain's veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta.
"I always saw these top players on TV while I was in China and now I'm sharing a changing room with them," he said. "Everyone has helped me to adapt and made things easy for me. I'm fully adapted. As for Iniesta, he does things in training and in games that I've never seen before. He is an example to follow. You think he might touch the ball four times and yet he only makes one touch. He's unpredictable."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.