Brazil legend Pele has claimed that Paulinho "didn't have a choice" over his move to China, and has backed his compatriot to prove his doubters wrong at Barcelona.
The midfielder joined Guangzhou Evergrande from Tottenham in 2015, where he played for two years before his surprise €40m move to the Nou Camp this summer.
Many have dismissed Paulinho due to the reputation of the Chinese Super League, but Pele has insisted that the Far East may not have been his first choice destination.
"Before he went to Barcelona, he went to China, but he had a lot of other proposals – Germany, Italy," Pele told Marca.
"He went to China because today, unfortunately, and it's important to mention this, businessmen are the ones who decide where their players will go because it's they who sell the player to clubs.
"Sometimes you're thinking, 'Oh I wonder why he's playing there [China] rather than perhaps Spain, Argentina - he can't be very good' but it's because he didn't have too much choice.
"It was different for me because I decided I didn't want to leave Brazil, I just wanted to promote football."
And Pele added that the 29-year-old could "surprise people" by performing well in midfield for the Blaugrana this season.
"I think Barcelona are going through some changes but Paulinho will surprise a lot of people with his strength and character," he said.
Paulinho made his debut in La Liga as a substitute in Barcelona's 2-0 win against Alaves, and is now on international duty with Brazil.