Brazilian World Cup winner Gilberto Silva insists Theo Walcott's ability and character can be big assets in Everton's exciting attack.
Lightning forward Walcott, who is embarking on his first full campaign with the Blues following 12 years with Arsenal, formed one-quarter of a dynamic Toffees front four at Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.
Gilberto believes Walcott’s decision to trade in the Emirates Stadium for Goodison Park in January was the perfect move to advance his career.
And he is backing his former Gunners teammate to have a big say in Everton’s bid for success under new manager Marco Silva after the Blues bolstered their forward options with the arrivals of Gilberto's fellow Brazilians Richarlison and Bernard this summer.
“When I saw Theo was going to Everton I thought it was a really positive move for him,” Gilberto told evertonfc.com.
“It is a chance for him to learn new skills and push himself in a different way. He has a big responsibility in the team, which I think will motivate him. And he has the ability and character to be one of Everton’s key players.
“After so long at one club it is good to find a new challenge. Theo initially had to adapt to a new environment but he is playing with some very good players and I think he can develop even further as a footballer.”
Gilberto and Walcott struck up an instant rapport following the Englishman’s switch to the Emirates Stadium from Southampton.
The 17-year-old Walcott marked his Arsenal debut on the opening day of the 2006-07 season by creating a goal for his South American teammate against Aston Villa.
“Theo is a player I like a lot. I knew him from the very start of his time at Arsenal and he had a great career there,” said Gilberto, who played 46 matches in two seasons with Walcott before leaving for Greek team Panathinaikos in summer 2008.
“I have watched quite a few of his matches for Everton and he has looked sharp.
“He is mature and has a lot of experience. He is a good boy and I hope he can show all his quality at Everton and help the Club achieve some big things.
“He is the kind of guy who deserves that success.”
Everton welcome Southampton to Goodison for their opening home game of 2018-19 on Saturday after starting the campaign by drawing 2-2 at Wolves, when Walcott started in an attack also featuring Cenk Tosun, Gylfi Sigurdsson and two-goal Richarlison.
Gilberto is warning Mark Hughes's Saints to expect a very difficult afternoon on Merseyside. The former midfielder was unbeaten in his first eight Premier League matches before being part of the Arsenal side which came unstuck at the hands of a Wayne Rooney-inspired Everton in October 2002.
Indeed, Gilberto, who was capped 94 times by his country, tasted success only once at Goodison, losing on three of his five visits.
And he expects an Everton side managed by Silva and containing in-form compatriot Richarlison and old colleague Walcott to be a tough nut to crack on their own turf this season.
“I believe Everton can be a very strong attacking team,” added Gilberto. “They have two extremely good players in Walcott and Richarlison.
“Walcott is experienced and knows the league. Richarlison is new and hungry to do well and his enthusiasm and motivation could be very important for Everton.
“If they both perform as well as they can, they will be big assets.
“Marco Silva is ambitious and he will push the players, organise the team and aim to play good football.
“It is an opportunity for Everton to move forward and a good challenge for the manager.
“There is always big expectation at Everton. He will be trying to make them exceptionally competitive and turn Goodison Park in to a fortress.
“It was always very hard to play there. We knew the game would be very physical and we would have to be ready for a big battle.
“Every player had to be sharp from the beginning of the match. If you were not on your game straight away it would be very hard.
“Everton were always ready from kick off when they were playing in front of their own fans. I always enjoyed it, though.
“They were the types of games where you started your preparation from the first day of the week because you knew you were facing a very difficult challenge.”