Paulinho has been described as a box-to-box midfielder, with powerful running and good movement into the box. He also offers a useful presence in set piece situations at both ends of the pitch.
Paulinho began his playing career with Pão de Açúcar, joining the youth squad in 2004. After failing to break through into the first team, Paulinho joined Lithuanian side FC Vilnius in 2006. He played well for the club during his two seasons in Lithuania, scoring five goals from 38 domestic appearances, but at the end of the 2007 LFF Lyga campaign, FC Vilnius were relegated to the second division and Paulinho left the club where he moved to Poland, signing for Ekstraklasa side ŁKS Łódź. Following one season in Poland where Paulinho made 17 league appearances, he returned to Brazil and his first club Pão de Açúcar in the summer of 2008. After a single successful season, Paulinho was on the move again, joining Série B side Bragantino in 2009.
In 2009, playing for Bragantino, he drew the attention of São Paulo giants Corinthians, and was signed by the club. His first league goal for the club came on 30 May 2010, coming off the bench to score Corinthians's fourth goal, sealing a 4–2 win over state rivals Santos. He would eventually go on to win important competitions with the São Paulo side, such as the 2011 Brasileirão and the 2012 Copa Libertadores, cementing himself as a hero for his club. Along the way to the Copa Libertadores final, Paulinho netted the only goal of the two-legged quarter-final tie against fellow Brazilian side Vasco da Gama, scoring in the 87th minute of the second leg on 23 May 2012 to send Corinthians into the semi-finals.
On 10 November 2012, Paulinho struck twice as Corinthians cruised to a 5–1 victory over Coritiba in the 35th round of league play. On 16 December, Paulinho and Corinthians won the Club World Cup in Yokohama as Paolo Guerrero scored the winner in the 1–0 victory over European champions Chelsea.
On 6 July 2013, Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the signing of Paulinho after he successfully completed his medical for a fee reported to be just under £17 million. This was the club's record transfer fee at the time. However, in the same transfer window, this record was broken twice with the signings of striker Roberto Soldado from Valencia and winger Érik Lamela from Roma for a deal worth an initial £25.8 million, plus up to £4.2 million in bonus payments. He made his Premier League debut on 18 August 2013 against Crystal Palace, eventually being named Man of the Match in which Tottenham won 1–0 away thanks to a Roberto Soldado penalty. On 22 August, he scored his first goal for the club in a Europa League qualification match against Dinamo Tbilisi, a 5–0 away victory in the first-leg. He scored his first goal for the club in the Premier League on 22 September 2013 against Cardiff City, a 1–0 away victory, with a backheel in the 92nd minute of the game.
On 30 June 2015, Paulinho joined Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande for €14 million (£9.9 million), signing a four-year deal. He was signed by his former international manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari. On 11 July 2015, he made his debut in a 2–0 away victory against Changchun Yatai, coming on as a substitute for Yu Hanchao in the 78th minute. On 25 August 2015, Paulinho scored his first goal for Guangzhou with a 35-yard free-kick in the first leg of a 2015 AFC Champions League knock-out stage match against Japanese side Kashiwa Reysol. On 13 December 2015, Paulinho scored a header against Club América in the third and final minute of the added-time in the quarter-final in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup, making the game 2–1 and putting Evergrande into the semi-final. In January 2017, Paulinho extended his contract with Guangzhou until 31 December 2020.
On 14 August 2017, Barcelona announced a deal with Guangzhou Evergrande for the purchase of Paulinho for €40 million. His release clause was set at €120 million. According to Guangzhou Evergrande, Barcelona made several unsuccessful bids until activating the release clause. On 26 August 2017, he made his debut for Barcelona in a 2–0 win over Alavés, coming on for Andrés Iniesta in the 87th minute. On 16 September 2017, he scored his first goal for Barcelona in a 2–1 win over Getafe, after coming on for Ivan Rakitić in the 77th minute.
Paulinho made his debut for the Seleção on 14 September 2011 in the first leg of the 2011 Superclásico de las Américas against rivals Argentina in Córdoba, with the game ending in a goalless draw. His first goal for his international side came against Argentina a year later on 20 September 2012, when he netted Brazil's equalizing goal in an eventual 2–1 in the first leg of the 2012 Superclásico de las Américas. Paulinho started in the squad for the 5–0 friendly against South Africa on 5 March 2014 and looks to be in Scolari's 2014 World Cup squad.
Paulinho was selected by Luiz Felipe Scolari for the 23-man Brazil squad for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup held in his home country. In Brazil's final warm-up match for the competition against England at the Maracanã on 2 June 2013, Paulinho volleyed home Lucas Moura's cross to level the game late on at 2–2; the sides would finish level on this same scoreline. In the opening group match on 15 June against Japan, Paulinho scored Brazil's second goal in a 3–0 victory. In the semi-final round against Uruguay on 26 June, Paulinho netted in the 86th minute to give Brazil a 2–1 win and book the host country a spot in the final. In the final, Brazil outclassed Spain, beating the World and two-time defending European champions by a score of 3–0. For his efforts throughout the tournament, Paulinho received the Bronze Ball as the competition's third best player.
In the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup Paulinho scored his first ever career hat-trick in a match away against Uruguay. Brazil had initially gone behind but came back for their first time anyone had won in Uruguay since the qualifying round had started.As of 19 September 2017NotesAs of 6 September 2017.Scores and results list Brazil's goal tally first:
CorinthiansCampeonato Brasileiro Série A: 2011Campeonato Paulista: 2013Copa Libertadores: 2012FIFA Club World Cup: 2012
Guangzhou EvergrandeChinese Super League: 2015, 2016Chinese FA Cup: 2016Chinese FA Super Cup: 2016, 2017AFC Champions League: 2015
BrazilSuperclássico das Américas: 2011, 2012FIFA Confederations Cup: 2013Série A Team of the Year: 2011, 2012Silver Ball: 2011, 2012FIFA Confederations Cup Bronze Ball: 2013Chinese Super League Team of the Year: 2016