Rafa Benitez says an increasingly confident Alex Iwobi can deliver on his vast promise with Everton – and add regular goals and assists to the 25-year-old's “incredible condition and work rate”.
Forward Iwobi scored Everton’s opening goal in the Carabao Cup victory over Huddersfield Town on Tuesday and drew further praise from his manager for staying on the field after a second-half injury.
Benitez is cautiously optimistic over Iwobi's chances of recovering to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday – when, insists the Spaniard, Richarlison will be wholly focused on what he enjoys most: playing and scoring goals for Everton.
Reports this week suggested Paris Saint-Germain like the Brazilian but Benitez is “99.9-per-cent” sure Richarlison will still be an Everton player following Tuesday’s transfer deadline.
In terms of recruitment, Everton are “working on two or three names”, says Benitez, whose immediate priority is Brighton.
And, asked about Iwobi on the eve of the game, Benitez disclosed an appreciation of the attacker’s qualities.
“When I was analysing all the stats, not just watching the games… he is one of the players who has the potential and energy and could do well,” said Benitez.
“My job was to try to give him confidence and adjust a couple of things in the way he is playing and his understanding of the game.
“I am really pleased with him and I think the fans can see a big difference in these three games from last year.
“He was injured [at Huddersfield] and carried on trying to help the team because we had 10 players.
“He was a key part in the success and I think the fans will really appreciate his commitment to the Club.
“We are working on his position and when he receives the ball and what he has to do [in possession in different areas] and the delivery.
“I know he has incredible condition and work rate and his physicality is really good.
“He has to improve in the final third, he knows that.
“It is just to be sure he makes things simple, then he can score goals and give assists.
“He is doing well and growing in confidence.”
Iwobi was one of only two players to retain a starting place at Huddersfield following the Premier League draw with Leeds United three days earlier.
Among those who came in was 19-year-old defender Jarrad Branthwaite, who spent the second half of last season on loan with Championship Blackburn Rovers.
“With some young players, it is important to give them time on the pitch competing – but at the same time be sure they have the principles and fundamentals right," said Benitez.
"The way we coach the young players and try to improve them technically… also tactically and their understanding of the game, is something we can do with the staff here.
“If you send them on loan, you have to choose the right club.
“Maybe they will not play, or maybe they will play but not improve their understanding of the game – and come back with more experience but without the principles we want.
“At the moment, I am happy for him [Branthwaite] to stay here and after we will decide.
“It is important for me to see him up-close, to see how much we can improve all these little things.”
Benitez is waiting to make a decision on the involvement of Dominic Calvert-Lewin at Brighton, with the striker's training programme still restricted by a toe problem.
But Richarlison travels south following a productive week’s work.
“I am very happy with him and he is happy here and wants to score goals,” said Benitez.
“You never know in football but I am 99.9-per-cent sure he will stay and, hopefully, on Saturday he will score.
“I talked with him yesterday [Thursday], we had five-a-side and he was joking and scoring goals.
“I was talking with his agent and everything is fine.
“It is not something I am even considering.”
On potentially adding to his squad, Benitez added: “It depends on players moving out but maybe we have a chance to change a couple of players.
“We are working on two or three names, then we will see what we can do.”