Rafa Benitez expects Everton to benefit from an electric Richarlison this season, with the Brazilian intent on repaying the Club for giving the green light to his Olympic dream.
Manager Benitez is waiting to meet Richarlison in person following his appointment at Goodison Park last month – but spoke to the forward over his desire to represent Brazil at the Games in Japan.
Richarlison featured in every match as Brazil reached this summer’s Copa America final, where their unbeaten tournament record was ended by Argentina.
The 24-year-old, who has piled up 32 caps for his country following a debut in September 2018, is now preparing for an opening Olympic date with Germany in Yokohama on Thursday.
The competition’s gold medal match is set for 7 August, one week before Everton start their Premier League campaign.
But the short-term blow of Richarlison missing the beginning of the season is cushioned, in the view of Benitez – who had good news on the fitness of left-back Lucas Digne – by the prospect of the fired-up South American rejoining Everton's frontline when the campaign is under way.
“I was in contact with him, he had the Olympic Games in the back of his head, we needed to sort out his situation and he is fine,” Benitez told evertonfc.com.
“He is happy because he can go there… and he knows he has to give us something back because we were supporting him.
“That [not being involved at start of season] could be something we can consider not great in the beginning but will be a massive boost for us in the rest of the season because he will try to deliver.”
Digne, meanwhile, was hurt playing for France in their European Championship meeting with Portugal on 23 June.
And, explained Benitez, the noises coming from the 27-year-old over his fitness are all positive.
“I had contact with him [on Wednesday morning], he is training well, doing his job and ready to join the team as soon as possible,” said Benitez.
“He is a great professional and I know he is working hard.
“My exchange of messages with him has been good because he is telling me he is nearly ready.”
Former Barcelona defender Digne is among a senior cohort of Everton players who have experience of captaining the team.
The job has belonged to Seamus Coleman for the past two seasons and Benitez says he will take his time before settling on a skipper for 2021/22.
But he's liked what he’s heard from his older heads since taking charge – and wants to be the man who unlocks the potential in a talented squad.
“I am yet to make a decision [on the captain] because it is a new season and you need to know your players,” said Benitez.
“I am quite comfortable with the senior players, any of them.
“They show they have the right mentality when you talk with them.
“They are keen to learn.
“They know something was missing [preventing Everton from sustaining consistently good form]… they are desperate to change that.
“Maybe they need someone to guide them in the right direction, I will try to do that.
“Seamus is a great lad… any of the senior players can be captain, if they have the character and leadership you are looking for in a captain.”