PAULINHO fought back tears in an emotional interview after reviving his career aged 34.
The former Tottenham star now plies his trade at Corinthians, the Brazilian club he left for Spurs in 2013.
He made an emotional return there in January last year, but it threatened to be cut prematurely short when he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in May 2022.
After briefly considering retirement the midfielder was able to return following an eight-month lay-off.
Paulinho initially made a series of cameos from the bench, scoring in a sub appearance during a 3-1 win over Santo Andre.
He then returned to the starting XI for his side's Campeonato Paulista quarter-final against Gabriel Martinelli's former side Ituano.
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The midfielder scored a brilliant 35th minute header, capping a sensational return to action.
Corinthians would unfortunately be beaten on penalties after a 1-1 draw, but Paulinho's joy and relief at being back in action is clear for all to see.
Speaking ahead of the game, a visibly moved Paulinho said: "The biggest title I had in my life was my return to football. That's why I'm an accomplished guy."
Delving deeper into his injury anguish the Brazil international, who played 67 times for Spurs between 2013 and 2015, added: "That's where I think about stopping, because then it creates a doubt with yourself, right?
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"Of you being 34-years-old, of a recovery that will last eight, nine, ten months."
Having managed to put his serious injury behind him, Paulinho reckons he still has plenty left in the tank.
Asked how much longer he would like to play, he continued: "Four years at most. I think it's ideal, 38. I think it's good."
Paulinho was then asked what Corinthians means to him, and offered up a heartwarming answer.
He replied: "Everything. It was him [Corinthians] who gave me the opportunities.
"The titles I have were Corinthians, my arrival in the Brazilian national team was Corinthians, my trip to Europe was Corinthians.
'AT CORINTHIANS, I LIVED'
"To a World Cup, to a Confederations Cup. At Corinthians I lived, I think, everything an athlete could have experienced in football. From a bad moment to the top."
Despite being a talented player destined to earn 56 caps for his country, Paulinho endured a difficult start to life in the game.
He initially played for third-tier side Pao de Acucar – before going on unfulfilling loans to Lithuanian side Vilnius and Polish outfit LKS Lodz – as well as Brazilian team Bragantino.
Speaking to El Periodico about his tough time at Vilnius in 2017, Paulinho opened up about his sickening experiences: "I wanted to leave my country, I wanted to play, I wanted to try new things.
"Everything went well until the racist episodes arrived. What did they say to me? The usual stuff in those cases, you already know."
He went on to join Corinthians in 2010, where he would become a Brazil regular and put himself on the wishlists of plenty of Europe's top clubs.
In 2013, following outstanding Confederations Cup displays, Paulinho moved to Tottenham as one of seven signings following the departure of Gareth Bale.
Things didn't quite go to plan in North London, however, and after two years he was on the move to a third continent – joining Asian giants Guangzhou FC in the Chinese Super League.
He became a legendary figure at Tianhe Stadium, scoring 75 goals in 176 appearances while helping his side to three league titles, an FA Cup and an Asian Champions League to add to his Copa Libertadores and Club World Cup accolades won with Corinthians.
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His time in China was interrupted by a shock move to Barcelona, where he would thrive – scoring nine times in 49 games and helping the Catalan side to a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double before returning to Guangzhou.
After leaving the CSL for good in 2021 following a change in salary cap rules, Paulinho briefly played for Al-Ahli in Saudi Arabia before finally coming home to Corinthians – where he still believes he has plenty to contribute.
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