Brazil international midfielder Paulinho has revealed compatriot Neymar's persuasion and Lionel Messi's invitation played a key role in his decision to join Barcelona. The 29-year-old moved to Camp Nou from Chinese club, Guangzhou Evergrande for €40m (£36m, $47.3m) in August.
Paulinho explained an unusual incident when Messi invited him to join the Spanish league leaders during the international friendly fixture between Brazil and Argentina in Australia. He has a buyout clause of €120m (£107.9m, $142.1m) in his current deal at Barcelona.
The midfielder admitted that he was forced to control his excitement on the pitch, having just received an invitation to play for the La Liga giants by their star forward.
"It was in the friendly in Australia. I had a free-kick, me and Willian were standing over the ball," Paulinho told Globoesporte.
"I was over the ball just to stand there, Willian was going to take it. Messi was far away. When Willian took aim I stepped back, he came over and said, 'Let's go to Barcelona'.
"I heard him and said, 'If you want to take me there, I'm going.' I mean, he is the best in the world and you hear words like that, it makes you happy, it makes you feel confident.
"Whatever the circumstances, playing alongside the best in the world is something I can tell my kids about. At that point, I almost fell flat on my face but I kept playing!"
Neymar had already left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain even before Paulinho arrived in Spain. The former Santos star completed a world-record switch to Parc des Princes in the first week of August.
Despite already making a decision to leave Camp Nou, Neymar was trying to persuade the ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder to leave the Chinese outfit for Barcelona.
"We spoke quite a bit when negotiations with Barcelona started. He always used to say, 'You could come here, you're going to like it, you'll be happy. It's great here'," the Brazilian midfielder stressed.
"Of course he was always trying to make that true. It would be amazing for me to play with him at Barcelona, with all these great players."