Everton Midfielder Allan: 'We All Need To Improve'

In an interview originally published in Everton’s matchday programme for Saturday's meeting with Aston Villa, Allan talks about aiming to leave a legacy at Goodison Park, relief at the abolition of a ‘dream-crushing’ European Super League, coronavirus-enforced separation from family in Brazil, becoming a role-model for teammates and a vow to improve.

To watch Allan understatedly prowling a football field is to gain a glimpse into the selfless character of the Everton midfielder.

Allan, who is so taken with life at Goodison Park he wants to stay beyond the terms of the three-year contract he signed last summer, is unflinchingly straightforward and honest.

The unblinking eyes, a trait seemingly passed through the lineage of uncompromising South American midfield generals, represent large brown portals into a clear and analytical mind.

A man who values the pragmatic qualities of “planning and competence”, Allan is invariably in control.

He will go in hard, all right, but always legitimately and with a purpose.

And that applies whether his opponent is wearing football boots or dressed in a designer suit and cooking up plans for a European Super League.

Growing up in the tough Rio neighbourhood of Piscinao de Ramos, Allan understood how football worked; that his hopes of playing in the blue-riband leagues he followed on television would be determined by ability and human endeavour.

“It was quite awful and upsetting to hear of the European Super League (ESL) proposal, as this would have ended the dreams of so many children,” says Allan.

“Children who dream of playing in the Champions League through sporting merit, of playing in a European competition after a great season and going on to challenge big clubs.

“It was the type of news that sort of pulls the rug from under you, people prioritising self-interest and money over what really matters in our sport, which is passion and love for the fans.

“The accumulated passion for football over so many years up to the present day.

“It’s great that the league was cancelled, it’s great that the love of football prevailed – the love from the fans and players and all the clubs who make up this sport that we know and love.”

Allan is very well qualified to talk about the aborted ESL, the collective brainchild of 12 clubs from England, Spain and Italy.

He achieved Champions League qualification in four of five seasons with Napoli.

The famous Serie A club, which provided a fittingly combustible stage for the incomparable genius of Diego Maradona, would have been grossly undermined by a breakaway division, a footballing Oliver Twist, on the outside looking in at the governors gorging on their ugly banquet.

Allan is now with a club in Everton whose professed intention is to win silverware and consistently play top-level European football.

“Some of those 12 clubs have been going through difficult times,” continues Allan.

“Take AC Milan, for example, they haven’t competed in the Champions League for many years [they last participated in 2013/14].

“This season, they’re doing really well and could qualify.

“We know all teams go through difficult periods in football, but they can come back through planning and competency and their players.

“They can get back to achieving great things.

“It has to be about merit. Atalanta in Italy are improving every year.

“Everton have invested to compete with the biggest clubs.

“Likewise, Napoli, and Sevilla, in Spain, who are always competing with the larger teams.

“These clubs have lower budgets but are always fighting at the top of their leagues.

“Hopefully, this level of competition for European places and trophies will continue for years to come.”

On that note, Allan is of a mind to remain part of Everton’s pursuit of those goals for a similar timeframe.

The player from Rio de Janeiro was one of a trio of marquee arrivals inside four dizzying days on the eve of this campaign and assuredly transferred a pugnacious and forceful game to the Premier League.

Settling at the Club amounted to an overnight process.

And, crucially for a family man, Allan’s wife of more than 11 years, Thais, and the couple’s three children have found a home from home in England.

“Knowing my wife and children are happy is the most important thing for me,” says Allan.

“They’ve given up everything to be alongside me.

“My wife left her family and friends in Brazil.

“My children had to leave behind all their friends in Italy to come with me to England on this new adventure.

“We’ve moved to a nice, quiet town… my children settled in really well at school, they’re really happy, and my wife is very happy with where we live.

“Seeing them happy and smiling is the most important thing in the world.

“I’ll do everything possible so they can continue being happy and joyful and this will give me the strength to do my work on the pitch better than ever.”

Allan’s contract with Everton runs until at least the summer of 2023, one year before the Club moves to its new home at Bramley-Moore Dock.

He would like to still be around for that epochal event.

But more than that, Allan is determined to plant his size nines in Everton legend, eager that history doesn’t regard him as someone who was merely passing through.

“My thoughts are to remain at Everton for as long as possible,” says Allan.

“It feels good, I feel at home here.

“When you feel good and motivated to do your best on the pitch, there’s no reason you would think about moving.

“It’s very early to have this conversation, I know, but I’m really happy here and hope to stay for many years and leave my mark in the hearts of the fans and at the Club.

“I am really pleased with the way I was welcomed and how the supporters received me.

“I still haven’t had that feeling of the fans in a full Goodison Park but I’ve received a lot of messages welcoming me and congratulating me on my first season in an Everton shirt.

“I hope to repay them on the pitch, through good performances, and to leave an important legacy at the Club.”

Allan showed a lot of what he is about on his Everton debut, tackling and hurrying and blocking to dampen fires in front of his defence in a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

His display at Crystal Palace a fortnight later was held up on Match of the Day as a masterclass in how to perform the holding-midfield role.

As he reached optimum condition, we were increasingly treated to sights of Allan the adventurer, a player his manager at Udinese, Andrea Stramaccioni, demanded grow “more effective with scoring and assists because he had quality in the attacking phase”.

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Defender duo Leonie Maier and Rikke Sevecke reflect on their final Everton match as the pair are set to depart the Club this summer.

Beginning his eighth straight Premier League match in Everton’s 1-0 win over Chelsea back in December, Allan repeatedly surged forwards with the ball at his feet.

He completed four dribbles, fewer than only attackers Richarlison and Alex Iwobi of the 20 outfield starters.

Four days later, in a game at Leicester City, Allan sustained a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 75 days.

“Without a doubt, prior to the injury, I was in really good physical and mental shape,” says Allan, who initially returned against Southampton on 1 March.

“When your confidence is up, you can take your game that bit further.

“Coming back from injury, I’m aiming to continually improve my fitness and technique and increase my confidence.

“It’s not easy after nearly three months out to go back to doing things exactly the same as before.

“I want to get back to my highest level, the peak of my game, and give my all to help my teammates in this final part of the season.

“I’ve adapted very well to both English football and the team’s style of play.

“But I can do even better and so can the team.

“I think we need to constantly improve.

“I could contribute more assists and it’s always good to be getting three-to-five goals of my own per season.

“I’m happy with my performances helping the team defensively but, who knows, maybe in the coming games, or in future, I can make some attacking contributions, too.”

It is logical that an individual free of ego, someone prepared to put himself at the service of others, sounds personal ambitions in the context of how they’ll aid his side.

Eric Cantona once described deep-lying midfielder Didier Deschamps, a former colleague with Marseille and France, as a “water carrier”.

It wasn’t intended as a compliment and, perhaps, chimed with the prevailing view.

Today’s outlook is vastly different, the job of the midfield sitter – the pivot, to use modern terminology – considered vital.

“We look to do what is necessary, what our coach asks of us every day,” says Allan.

“I’m a very willing player, someone who looks to help my teammates perform their roles.

“Maybe I don’t stand out on the pitch but it [defensive midfielder] is an essential role and I know I have a very important job supporting my teammates.

“The most important thing for me is to win and that I help the team achieve this.”

Carlo Ancelotti called Allan a “leader by example” after reuniting at Goodison with a player he managed for 18 months in Naples.

Other attributes detailed by Everton manager Ancelotti – defensive strength, aggression, tactical awareness and capability on the ball – have been corroborated on the field.

The quiet off-pitch influence quickly surfaced, too.

Tom Davies excelled when standing in for the injured Allan for a home game against Brighton & Hove Albion soon after the Brazilian’s arrival.

Post-match, 22-year-old Davies revealed he’d prepared by studying footage of the senior man in action.

“It’s really satisfying to hear a teammate say such positive things about me, it makes me really happy,” says Allan.

“I’m certain Tom will have a great career… he already has one, of course, but an even better one, as an important player in English football and in the England team.

“He’s a quality player and a great guy.

“Someone who’s always looking to support his teammates. I hope we can do great things playing alongside each other in an Everton shirt.

“When you can’t play, it is very frustrating. It’s really painful not being able to help and contribute.

“I love playing football, so it hurts to not be on the pitch, making a difference.

“It’s upsetting but these things happen in football.

“We look to learn from every injury and try to help out in other ways: through talking or instilling confidence from the touchline to try to boost your teammates’ performances.”

Allan intends to explore his still-unfamiliar home surroundings as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted.

The pandemic hasn’t released Brazil from its grip, however, and the timing of an overdue reunion with mum Rosana and four sisters and three brothers is unclear.

Allan related in these pages six months ago how he treasures his summers at home.

“I’m always with my mother, brothers and sisters and friends,” he said.

“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.”

There is deep concern, then, over the bleak numbers from his homeland – Brazil recorded its highest monthly COVID death rate in April, surpassing the March total of 66,573 – but cautious optimism after previously sceptical president Jair Bolsonaro launched a concerted vaccination drive.

“I wasn’t able to visit Brazil last summer, I ended up staying in Italy with my [immediate] family, as the situation was bad,” says Allan.

“I hope that this year, even if it’s just for a short period of time, I’ll be able to see my mother and my brothers and sisters.

“It’s the same for my wife as we haven’t been home for a long time and have had no face-to-face contact with our families and friends.

“It’s quite sad but we are aware it’s the same for everybody.

“We hope the situation can improve quickly.

“We see that here in England things have been very organised [regarding vaccine rollout] in overcoming this problem and there’s been a really positive response.

“I hope Brazil can follow this same path and things get better as soon as possible.”

Allan continued his quest for full fitness with a shrewd display at Arsenal eight days ago. It was his excellent pass speared over the top that released Richarlison to deliver the ball goalkeeper Bernd Leno fumbled into his own net to gift Everton victory.

That result was the latest in a succession of notable away wins and sustained hopes of Champions League football.

Everton will need a near faultless run-in, mind, after coughing-up points at home, and the Europa League appears more readily attainable.

“We’ve had quite a unique season,” begins Allan, “whenever we had a run of positive results, we ended up losing a lot of players.

“I think it’s a group of high-quality players, a group really dedicated in training and always willing to learn and help each other out.

“This collective team spirit has, undoubtedly, been very important this season because with one player out, another would come in and need to keep up the standards.

“We achieved a lot of important victories away from home.

“At Goodison, we have lost what, in theory, were easier games.

“Sometimes, the result was within our reach but we drew or lost.

“We need to identify our mistakes to avoid repeating them.

“We must have the mentality of always looking to win, to put previous results to the back of our minds, especially when we have won three or four games, and always think about the next match.

“For us to go on a consistent run that takes us far in the league, we have to always take things game by game.

“We will think positively and work hard in training and on the pitch and aim to win all the remaining matches.”

The schoolboy Allan began contributing to the household pot through a talent for Futsal.

His vision of a career on the big pitches in the big leagues never became clouded, however.

It moved closer to reality when, aged 17, Allan joined Rio team Vasco da Gama, after starting with Madureira in the same city.

He thought of that beginning and an abiding allegiance to Vasco as the super league fiasco raged.

“I loved football as a child and I supported Botafogo, a team from Rio, but then I started playing for Vasco and became a Vasco fan,” says Allan.

“I still support them today.

“I have great affection for Vasco, it was the club that opened their doors to me in Brazil.

“I always followed European football, as well. I’d drop everything I was doing to watch Champions League games and English, Italian and Spanish football.

“To play in Europe was a childhood dream for me, one I’ve thankfully been able to realise.

“I believe a lot of children around the world dream of playing in the Premier League, or the main European leagues.

“I hope it remains like this, based on merit, where teams having good seasons compete for places in the Champions League against the big clubs and, who knows, cause upsets and reach the final stages of the competition.”

Allan cited “the size of the Club, its rich history and ambition and the name of the coach” when explaining on the day of his unveiling why “you don’t think twice about coming to Everton”.

After seven months and 20 appearances, he knows he was right to trust his instinct.

“It’s a dream to be playing in the most important league in the world and I’m really happy here,” says Allan.

“I hope I can become even happier through good performances and good seasons where, together with my teammates, I help lift Everton higher and higher up the league.”

Safe in the knowledge such progress would be suitably rewarded.