Paulinho keen on prolonging Club World Cup affection
Paulinho eyes his third FIFA Club World Cup
Brazilian midfielder won the world title with Corinthians in 2012
He represented Guangzhou Evergrande at Japan 2015
Among all those boasting FIFA Club World Cup experience, Brazilian Paulinho has a special affinity for the global club showpiece.
It all began in 2012, when Paulinho won that year's FIFA Club World Cup with Corinthians. Three years later he returned, but this time representing China's Guangzhou Evergrande at Japan 2015, where he scored the match-winning goal against Club America to fire his side into the last four.
Now, with Guangzhou reaching the semi-finals of this year's AFC Champions League, Paulinho has naturally fixed his sights on helping his side to the continental title and thus sealing his third global appearance, which this year will be held in Qatar.
"Four years ago, I had the opportunity of representing Guangzhou at the Club World Cup," the 31-year-old midfielder, who played at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, told FIFA.com. "Now, thanks to the collective efforts by the entire team, I have seen hopes of returning to the global competition.
"It [featuring at Qatar 2019] would be a landmark achievement for me because it would be my third Club World Cup. But of course, at the moment we can't think too much about the Club World Cup and we should focus our attention on the semi-final. We need to do one step at a time."
Awaiting Guangzhou are none other than J League giants Urawa Red Diamonds, who have twice won the Asian title in 2007 and 2017. Notably, the Japanese side saw off Chinese outfit Shanghai SIPG en route to the last four. For Paulinho, Urawa are definitely a team which they can't afford to underestimate.
"They are a strong side for sure," he said. "And they are a side that knows how to play and win in this competition. So we have to get ourselves very well prepared in every aspect. It is now the knockout stage match and every small detail will be decisive."
Moments to enjoy
Paulinho first joined Guangzhou in the middle of 2015 and he made an immediate impact in his side's AFC Champions League campaign, scoring a 35-yard free-kick as they saw off Kashiwa Reysol 3-1 in the quarter-final first leg.
After spending the 2017/18 season with Barcelona, he moved back to Guangzhou last year but with the club already knocked out during the Round of 16 in the AFC Champions League, he missed out on the Asian campaign.
However, the Brazilian more than made amends for that in this year's continental campaign, playing a key role as Guangzhou stormed into the semi-finals. Notably, he was twice on target, including netting twice in an extraordinary Round of 16 second leg tie against fellow C League side Shandong Luneng as Guangzhou eventually prevailed on penalties.
Having played time and again on the Asian stage, Paulinho believes that the level of the continental competition is on the up.
"In my opinion, the AFC Champions League competition is getting tougher year by year," he said. "Needless to say, that brings added value to the continental campaign. Guangzhou have changed a lot with players coming and going down the years but our goals remain unchanged - to win our third Asian title.
“It is going to be an amazing experience [if I reach a third Club World Cup]. I will try to enjoy every moment of my career because in football, time flies and everything goes by so fast.”