So Much More To Richarlison's Talent

Richarlison was being peppered with the familiar demands directed towards a footballer in these situations.

“Smile… celebrate like you’ve scored a goal… point at the camera”.

Everton’s new signing did not need the first instruction. He could not have stifled his grin if he’d tried. Even stood in front of the lens, adorned in Club kit and with an unknown audience watching him being snapped in a variety of poses, Richarlison fitted comfortably into his environment. He bounced from foot to foot, relaxed and absorbing the cameraman’s rat-a-tat-tat requests, occasionally turning to joke with a couple of friends in the room.

The 21-year-old would intermittently tug at his shirt, straightening out the royal blue jersey in order that he could regard the Club badge. He would later talk of being “honoured” to join Everton.

Richarlison’s capacity to adapt is perhaps born of necessity. His outright talent has thrust him into a succession of unfamiliar surroundings in a condensed period of time.

From his earthy hometown of Nova Venecia in south east Brazil he decamped 350 miles west to Belo Horzionte, then 250 miles south to capital city Rio de Janeiro.

He crossed continents to join Watford. After completing his move to the north of England he spoke with the air of a man ready to set up home. To use the word settle, though, would be wrong. Richarlison has not joined Everton to stand still.

“I hope to spend many years here trying to make history,” declared a player whose life was transformed when he took his A game with him on the 12-hour bus journey from home to a trial with Belo Horizonte club America Mineiro in 2014.

Richarlison has not been running away from Nova Venecia. Rather he has been hurtling towards his natural habitat at the vanguard of his sport.

The player’s roots matter to him. He used his overdue holiday this summer to visit his family and determined to leave an altruistic footprint on his old stomping ground during his stay.

A charity football match organised by Richarlison generated the cash to buy three tons of food to share around the more impoverished areas of his home region.

The player even scored twice in the game  a 3-3 draw for the record – one of the goals teed up by his dad Antonio Andrade, who scraped together the means to buy his son 10 footballs on the day he turned seven.

Antonio had identified a rare talent in his boy. Fluminense recognised it in 2016, the mammoth Rio team levering him out of America Mineiro, and Richarlison rammed home the point when he dazzled for his country the following year at the South American Under-20 Championship.

Converting all that raw ability and potential into hard currency in a foreign land is another matter altogether.


England’s top division has successfully positioned itself – to use the words of former Everton winger Pat Nevin – as the world’s Premier League.

The terrain is tough, then. A newcomer typically requires some time to find his feet, to calculate how he must apply his game for it to prosper on these unforgiving fields, populated by some of the planet’s greatest players.

Richarlison did not come to English football blind to its relentless intensity. He would spend afternoons in Brazil in his uncle’s tight living room, planted in front of the small television, rapt by games beamed from across the Atlantic and longing to transport himself into the action.

The journey from South America to England rarely runs on a direct line. Richarlison’s compatriots and friends Willian and David Luiz, for example, travelled to Chelsea via Ukraine and Portugal respectively.

Richarlison was considering a similar path 12 months ago, Dutch giants Ajax appearing poised to provide a bridge to England for the attacker in the way Shakhtar Donestsk and Benfica were ideal stopping points for his mates at Stamford Bridge.

Marco Silva, however, stepped in to present Richarlison with an opportunity to cut out the middle man.

Scarcely two years after playing his first professional football match in Brazil’s second division for America Mineiro – and finally being able to fork out for his own pair of boots – Richarlison was observing Watford take on Liverpool.

Not on the box, this time. Silva was giving him a close-up view of what awaited him – four days after the player had signed at Vicarage Road. The watching brief lasted 49 minutes. Richarlison replaced winger Roberto Pereyra in a topsy-turvy 3-3 draw and never paused to look back. The following week he scored in a 2-0 win at Bournemouth on the first of 30 successive Premier League starts.

“The training in England is very hard," Richarlison reflected soon after he came to the country. The players are always out to get you. Every time I get the ball, I jump because I know they're going to hit me.

"I was on the bench for my first match… and quickly realised the game's very different here – players run for the full 90 minutes.

"You have to train hard and recover well so you don't get cramps during the game.”

Richarlison’s effortless stride belies his power and speed. He is one of those footballers who covers the ground with a certain grace. Theo Walcott is blessed with the same gift.

The Brazilian’s easy movement was evident as he went through a series of fitness tests at USM Finch Farm before the glitzy business of his photo shoot.

Silva explained why he wanted to be reunited with a player who revealed his manager had become a surrogate father figure last year, with Antonio back in Brazil.

“He is fast, strong, very good technically and can play in three positions across the front line,” said Silva. “He can also score goals. Evertonians will see a player who will be 100 per cent committed to helping our team, always.”

Richarlison was barely off the plane last year when Silva set about drumming into the player the imperative of hard work in the Premier League. He quickly discovered he was preaching to the converted.

“Since I was a child I wanted to help the defence,” said Richarlison. “In football today, you have to play defensively and offensively  in the Premier League, especially.

“I will put everything I have on the field to try to help Everton win.”

Richarlison’s willingness to get his hands dirty in the team cause manifested in him topping the charts for high-intensity sprints in a slew of matches last season.

His dynamism and breadth of qualities – witness Richarlison’s body swerve, touch with his left foot and punched finish with the outside of his right for Watford at Goodison Park last November for a pointer to his skill and composure – combine to prove he is much more than what American’s call a cookie cutter.

The term is primarily attributed to the collection of college-reared professional golfers from across the pond, a group with indistinguishable swings and of similar gait and disposition.

A group incidentally who pulled up short on the links of Carnoustie at last week’s Open Championship. The Scottish course demands concentration, invention, persistence and resilience of its players. In those respects, it has plenty in common with the Premier League.

Richarlison has played that course once before, summoning his mix of exuberance, flair and spirit to plot his way round, and is confident his reconnaissance mission will equip him for what he hopes are the prime years of his career.

“I live for football,” Richarlison once said. It speaks highly of both Everton’s ambition and their new manager, then, that the South American envisages his finest years at Goodison Park.

Former Arsenal manager George Graham used to talk until he was blue in the face about the value of recruiting footballers hungry to improve and achieve. His successful Gunners team of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s was founded on players bought from the likes Wimbledon, Stoke City, Sheffield Wednesday, Watford, Leeds and Leicester. Cremonese at the foot of Serie A in the case of Anders Limpar.

Swede Limpar would become an enormously popular figure  and FA Cup winner – at Everton after joining from the Gunners in 1994. Evertonians like their clever and direct attackers. Richarlison, then, should feel right at home at Goodison Park.