A football fan since early childhood and a futsal player, Paulo Autuori had to give up his dream of becoming a professional footballer after contracting poliomyelitis in his teens. The disease left him with an atrophied leg and a permanent limp on his walk, which prevented him from playing. However, he did not give up his dream of being part of the footballing world, and decided to learn other aspects of the game. Autuori worked as a physical coach for clubs such as Portuguesa (RJ), and Nacional in Portugal. At Nacional, Paulo Autuori was promoted to manager of the main team, and has enjoyed a successful coaching career ever since.
Autuori graduated in Physical Education at Universidade Castelo Branco; and attended a Sport Admninstration course at PUC-RJ and a Soccer Coach Course at UERJ.
Autuori coached some teams from Portugal: Nacional, Vitória de Guimarães, Marítimo and Benfica; from Brazil: Portuguesa do Rio, Botafogo, Cruzeiro, Flamengo, Internacional, Santos and São Paulo; and from Peru: Alianza Lima, Sporting Cristal and the Peru national team.
Towards the end of April 2005, just before quitting Peru, he was hired by São Paulo FC to replace Émerson Leão, who had just gone to Japan. In that year, he won the Copa Libertadores 2005 and the 2005 FIFA Club World Championship.
On 29 December 2005, he resigned São Paulo to sign with Kashima Antlers, from Japan. At the end of 2006 he announced his new club as Cruzeiro, this was his third time at the club.
On 12 November 2009, Paulo Autuori has decided to leave Grêmio, after have reached an agreement with the club. Grêmio decided to let free the manager, because they can't win the championship title.
On 21 November 2009, Qatar League side Al Rayyan have replaced Brazilian coach Marcus Paqueta with his compatriot Paulo Autuori. The latter only left the club six months ago to join Gremio in his homeland, but has made a swift return after signing a three-year contract.
Paulo Autuori became the coach of the Qatar Olympic team on 27 August 2011. He replaced Frenchman Bernard Simondi. His first assignment was to lead the team during the 2012 London Olympics Qualification stage.
On 20 February 2012 The 55-year-old Brazilian became the fourth manager of the Qatar national team in the previous year, but is full of confidence they can progress towards the 2014 World Cup.
 He was fired on 15 January 2013 after his team failed to progress in 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations.
After being dismissed from Vasco da Gama, on 10 July 2013, Autuori signed with São Paulo. In 2005, as coach for Tricolor, he won two important titles: Copa Libertadores 2005 and 2005 FIFA Club World Championship. This time, however, Autuori is arriving in São Paulo to solve a crisis, the club losing its five last games.
On the following day, Autuori was introduced as the new coach despite the preference of many fans, who wanted Muricy Ramalho's return. The new coach of São Paulo said that, if the choice were his he would have signed Ramalho who Autuori considered a "winner". Autuori affirmed that he felt "a lot of satisfaction to return to this glorious institution, with big aims." The former vascaíno coach said that "I have not come to be loved; I have come to be champion."
Even in a middle of a crisis, Autuori has improved the ambient in São Paulo, a bad one in comparison to period that Ney Franco was the coach. Lúcio's removal from staff, according some people of club, was essential for this.
On 9 September 2013, Autuori was fired after a 2–0 loss against Coritiba, a result that kept the club in relegation zone of Brazilian League. In a report from the official site of club, there is a praising about his work. His substitute was Muricy Ramalho, who also replaced him in 2006 in club from Morumbi Stadium.
On 5 June 2018 Autuori was announced as the new Director of football in the Bulgarian champion Ludogorets Razgrad, but on the next day he was presented as the new manager of the team, since Dimitar Dimitrov wanted to leave the club. He stepped down from his position in October 2018, citing personal reasons.