Allan Marques Loureiro was 18 when his life flashed before his eyes but, despite the Brazilian’s tender years, there was an awful lot to absorb.
The “difficult childhood” in Piscinao de Ramos, a neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone, riven by drugs gangs and police militias engaged in a bloody battle for power.
Allan’s compact home, shared with his seven younger siblings and mum Rosana – and where he grew up as one of the primary breadwinners.
The vow as a 16-year-old to buy his family a new house.
“When you grow up in a community where life is hard, we dream about becoming footballers and providing a better life for our parents and brothers and sisters,” says Allan today.
And the football: a first senior season which concluded with Allan playing in front of more than 78,000 Vasco da Gama supporters who thronged the North Zone’s storied Maracana Stadium to watch their team confirm promotion back to Brazil’s Serie A.
Allan is a pragmatist by nature. He will talk in this interview about the sacrifices necessary to meet the family expectation he would succeed in football.
His single-mindedness kept him from an alternative path where friends lost their lives in hopeless pursuit of something better.
On the field, Allan is a model of self-denial, suppressing attacking urges to stand sentry in front of his defence, scuttling into spaces vacated by gallivanting full-backs.
When he was 20 and wife Thais gave birth to the couple’s first child, Miguel, Allan publicly determined to “work hard because I want to give him everything I didn’t have”.
Allan’s ability and industry and competitiveness make for a potent combination, although Thais reckons her husband’s obsession with winning is a pain.
“She says it is a bit annoying,” begins Allan, “she says, ‘You never want to lose, you never want to come last, you always want to be in first place and winning’.
“But that’s my style of play and I hope I never lose it.”
Allan was playing football with friends following his heady first season with Vasco da Gama when one of his greatest strengths nearly caused his downfall.
“We’re a big extended family and we really liked playing football all the time,” explains Allan.
“One family was always playing against another, me and my cousins against another group.
“The competitive spirit was really strong, nobody liked losing during a kickabout or a match.
“When you get on the pitch, you’re always looking to win.
“Those games when I was young helped my style of play and the way I see things.
“We were on holiday, playing football and having a good time, like always, but I ended up breaking my foot.
“At the time your life flashes before your eyes.
“‘What am I going to do? What am I going to say? How will the club react?’
“I ended up not telling anyone.
“I spent 10 days at home putting ice on my swollen foot, trying to make it better in time for pre-season.
“I turned up and didn’t say anything to anyone and started running, I did two laps and gave up on the third and opened up to the club about what had happened.
“It was a difficult situation but eventually they understood.
“They told me it was inappropriate but considering my age and what happened before the injury they gave me a lot of support to come back stronger.”
Vasco da Gama’s motives for forgiveness were unlikely to have been wholly altruistic.
The player who turned up at Everton declaring his excitement over teaming up again with “Professor Ancelotti” had a scholarly approach to his football.
“As a teenager I always aimed to be focused and attentive with what I wanted in life, with my dream of becoming a football player,” says Allan.
“I always looked to do things properly. I sacrificed a lot of things to make my dream of turning professional come true.
“When we’re younger, we like to go out with friends, stay up late, go away with friends, celebrate Carnaval and the other parties we have in Brazil.
“I left these things to one side, knowing I’ll have plenty of free time to enjoy them in future.”
Allan’s boyish love for the game is evident today.
He is sat in a corner of the vast indoor football pitch at USM Finch Farm.
Hailstones are crashing into the roof – the weather is no issue for a man who spent three years with Udinese in northern Italy where the winters are cold and wet – as Everton’s Academy players work on various drills.
Allan, on occasion, turns his head to watch the football tennis happening over his shoulder.
Looks like a man desperate to leap to his feet and join in as he rolls back a stray ball and receives an appreciative thumbs-up.
Allan is measured in conversation, assertive but quiet in tone.
Dressed head to toe in black, he gazes at the floor, searching for the right words to explain why his Napoli team under Maurizio Sarri ran like clockwork.
“We players knew exactly what to do with the ball,” starts Allan, “where to find each other on the pitch.
“We had...what’s the word... we always knew where our teammate would be.
“We had harmony, that’s it, we were very harmonious.
“They were three fantastic years with Sarri, personally and collectively.
“Everyone admired our football and looked forward to watching Napoli.”
Sarri, the Neapolitan who subsequently managed Chelsea and Juventus, signed Allan in 2015.
Twice in the following three seasons Napoli finished Serie A runners-up to Juventus – painfully in 2017/18, when Sarri’s side lost only three games and totalled 91 points.
They repeated their second place during Carlo Ancelotti’s full season in charge the following year.
Matters in Naples soured for Allan last November when his house was broken into, reportedly by supporters.
Napoil’s squad was confined to barracks for seven days by president Aurelio De Laurentiis after a defeat at Roma.
Following a Champions League draw with Red Bull Salzburg three days later a number of the squad returned to their homes rather than the club’s training retreat, prompting the fan unrest.
“There was a quite difficult moment where we lost a few games and there were some arguments,” says Allan.
“However, I think during my five years that was the only difficult moment.
“These things happen… we learn from them.
“There is no animosity.
“What I feel for Napoli is gratitude for the five years I was there, to the president for the opportunity to put on that shirt, to the fans for the way they embraced me.
“That one small incident during my five years at Napoli in no way detracts from my history at such a great club.
“It still hurts today that we didn’t win a title. That is the one blemish which hangs over that team.
“We had a great season [2017/18] and did everything possible but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.
“The Napoli fans really deserved that title after waiting so long to be Italian champions.
“There was that passion, it was the right time to win it, but it didn’t work out.
“It’s a travesty we didn’t manage to do it but… we finished the season with our heads held high.”
Allan credits the futsal he played growing up for his exemplary close control and aptitude in small spaces.
“You have to think and reason quicker, you have less time to make decisions,” he explains.
It was through that branch of football Allan originally contributed financially at home, supporting three brothers and four sisters.
The full-scale version took over, Allan signing for Rio club Madureira, then, via a complex transfer to Uruguayan team Deportivo Maldonado – where he didn’t move physically – joining Vasco da Gama at 17.
“I had a bit of a difficult childhood, we didn’t want for anything but, thanks to football, from a young age I was able to help my mother at home,” says Allan.
“There was my grandma as well who worked and helped out at home. It wasn’t easy but these struggles make you grow up quicker and become stronger.
“With what I earned from futsal and football I helped with the household bills.
“When I reached a certain age, my family’s expectations were really high. They were very encouraging – my mum, my brothers and sisters, my uncles.
“They would come to all my games to support me. That gave me confidence and helped me a lot and, thank God, it all worked out.”
Allan was introduced to professional expectation in his first season with Vasco da Gama.
The grand Rio club had been relegated for the first time in its 110-year existence and the 18-year-old was one of those charged with doing something about it.
Vasco were promoted after beating Juventude in front of 78,609 at a steamy Maracana.
Following his aborted 2010, Allan returned to a Vasco side which won the Brazilian cup and came second in the league.
Also featuring in the Brazil team which won the 2011 Under-20 World Cup, a move to Europe was inevitable.
“I don’t think I could have imagined a better debut season,” says Allan.
“Playing in the Maracanã, in front of all those fans supporting you, is a childhood dream.
“Then my last season at Vasco was excellent.
“We came so close to being champions (Vasco finished two points behind Corinthians).
“They were wonderful years but in the mind of a footballer in Brazil, it’s a big ambition to play in Italian football, in European competitions.
“When an offer comes, you don’t think twice.
“I’d always played in Rio, close to my family and friends, so it was tough, leaving for another culture.
“But, thank God, there were a lot of Brazilians at Udinese and the club provided all the off-pitch assistance you required.
“For me and my wife and small child it was a wonderful thing.
“We quickly learned Italian and became familiar with the culture.
“We had special moments together and grew together with our son. It was a blessing for us.”
In Italy, Allan found an environment where he could wed tactical alertness to his technical proficiency.
His character and game matured in sync. The statistic which showed he made 124 tackles in 2014/15 – more than any other player in Europe’s top-five leagues by some distance – acted as a double-edged sword.
It reflected the player’s tenacity but overshadowed a multidimensional talent.
“You can excel in Brazil but the coaches don’t have the same amount of time to work on tactics as it’s one game after the other,” says Allan.
“In Italy there was more time to work with the coaches… it was perfect, tactically speaking.
“When I had difficulties, I’d stay after training to try to adapt my game. Italian football is a great tactical school to learn your trade.”
Allan happily relates that Thais and the couple’s three children joined him in England two days after Everton’s 5-2 win over West Bromwich Albion last month.
“We’re still in the hotel while we wait to move into our house,” says Allan, who had been using his rare alone time to watch Peaky Blinders.
“It was sad to leave behind so many dear friends in Napoli but my family is very happy to start a new life, starting school, getting to know Daddy’s new team.
“They’re really happy, really enthusiastic about this new adventure. “
Allan shifts uncomfortably, his relaxed countenance replaced by a pained expression, when recalling his Everton initiation song, performed in front of teammates on the eve of the opening-day victory at Tottenham Hotspur.
“It was a pagode (a type of Brazilian Samba) song, which is the music I listen to most,” Allan grimaces.
“How I felt...it’s not really my cup of tea, or ‘not my beach’, as we say in Brazil.
“I felt quite nervous. I’m a shy person, so I was very embarrassed.”
Allan is back on surer ground talking football – and his welcome on Merseyside.
Detailing his admiration for ex-Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo, Allan provides insight on the qualities he appreciates and draws on.
The South American scurries and spoils but in possession drives with the ball, passing positively and intelligently.
“Pirlo’s style was not exactly like mine but he is a player I liked because of his thinking and vision and the way he’d make his team tick,” says Allan.
“I looked up to Iniesta and Xavi and Zidane, aiming to learn from them.
“My new teammates are there to help whenever I need anything, on the pitch they make sure I’m in the right position and understand the right moves.
“I am very thankful for the welcome I’ve had from the players, the coaching staff, the president, the directors.
“The few times I’ve been out in Liverpool I could feel the affection of the fans.
“I can’t wait to receive this affection on the pitch in front of a full Goodison Park, winning games and celebrating together.
“I’ll give my everything to repay the confidence they’ve placed in me.”
By succeeding on that score, Allan hopes the opportunity to add to his nine international caps will follow.
“If I perform my role well on the pitch a call up to the Seleção will come,” he declares.
Allan will finish by documenting his ambitions with Everton.
First, though, back to Brazil and Allan’s youthful wish to buy a new family home, his mission to provide his children with “everything I didn’t have”.
“The first opportunity I had I bought a house for my mother and, thank God, today she’s doing fine,” says Allan.
“The family can safely relax in peace thanks to football.
“Two of my sisters are married and don’t live in the house anymore, two of my brothers have moved out.
“The others are still there.
“When I’m on holiday in Brazil I’m always with my mother, brothers and sisters and friends.
“We have parties and barbecues.
“It’s my favourite part of the holidays because playing in Europe we spend a long time away from our families.
“My children won’t go through the same growing-up process I did.
“They can grow up in a calm environment and get an education and learn to do the things they like without worrying about anything else.
“I want them to have secure futures.”
A “defender’s dream”, Michael Keane called Allan after an immaculate debut at Tottenham Hotspur.
It was highlighted on Match of the Day how Allan repeatedly slammed the door in the faces of Crystal Palace’s twinkle-toed forwards when Everton won 2-1 at Selhurst Park last month.
Today, his team is aiming to sign off for the international break with a fourth Premier League win from four matches.
“Everything’s in place to have a great season,” says Allan.
“We need to continue being humble, working hard, thinking game by game and not letting a run of good results go to our heads and start thinking we are a team of superstars.
“We have to know we are good players with an excellent coach and can achieve great things together.
“But on our own we may have difficulties, so we need to be a tight-knit, united group, with the same mindset: to not get too far ahead of ourselves, take things game by game and try to win every weekend.”