After serving out a suspension, the hot-headed but rampant Richarlison returns for Everton to continue a mission to lead the line for both club and country…
Ok, forget the quality of the opposition, as El Salvador lies in 72nd place in the FIFA rankings and by no means made life difficult for Brasil when the two sides met in New Jersey for a friendly that the Seleção would much rather have played against stronger opposition.
That doesn’t take much away from Richarlison’s first full game for his country at the top level. The double he hit in that game was impressive for the mere reason that not many players have managed to do that for Brazil – in fact, 12 players in 114 years.
It is a much more impressive feat when someone looks at the Everton man’s trajectory. Between opening up his Seleção account and his first professional game, for minnow Southeastern Brazilian side America-MG, a little more than three years have gone by.
Perhaps that speed would not have raised eyebrows if Brazil had been lacking goal-scorers. But one of the main reasons why the Seleção crashed out at the last eight in Russia 2018 was the absence of a poacher upfront. Man City’s Gabriel Jesus’ made history by becoming the worst number nine Brazil ever took to a World Cup – in five games, no goals.
Jesus, ironically, is one a member of the “debutant brace club”, netting twice against Ecuador in his debut for the Seleção two-years-ago. But his absence from Tite’s list for the first post-Russia friendly speaks volumes. And opened the way for the England-based rival.
After impressing in his first season at Watford, Richarlison started the 2018/9 Premier League season with three goals in his first three games for Everton – and he didn’t even complete the match against Bournemouth because of a red card in the 41st minute.
Given that the Brazilian played 86 minutes in both of his first games, one would not be wild-guessing that he will start Everton’s tough away date with Arsenal this Sunday. Fans have already spoken at least: in a poll conducted by local Liverpool newspaper Echo, 71% of voters backed Richardson to start a game that could be crucial for 10th-place Everton to keep contact with the top six.
Let’s also remember that Everton manager Marco Silva was the one responsible for Richarlison’s decision to try his luck in the Premiership. In 2017, Richardson, then a Fluminense player, had everything ready for a move to Ajax.
Silva, then at the helm at Watford was able to make the Brazilian player change his mind and chose a lower-table English club over the Dutch powerhouse. It comes as no surprise that the Portuguese manager looked for a reunion after taking the Everton job.
Apart from playing under his mentor, Richarlison also saw in Everton a chance to play more often than if he joined more robust suitors. People close to the player say that more exposure could give him a chance with the national team.
It seemed to have eluded him when Brazil manager Tite released in August the list of 23 players for the friendlies against the U.S. and the Salvadorians: instead of Richarlison, the list had former Fluminense team-mate Pedro.
However, a knee injury ruled Pedro out and Tite gave the Everton man the nod.
“I was very upset by Pedro’s injury and I pretty sure he will have another chance to show his work to the mister,” Richarlison said.
“But playing for Brazil is a dream and I wanted to make sure I made the best of my chance. I don’t want to merely be in this group, I want to be in the first team.”
Raised in Nova Venecia, a tough neighbourhood in the Espirito Santo state, Richarlison grew up in the same conditions that lured many young men into drug-trafficking. In fact, he was once mistaken by a gang member and had a gun pointed to his face by a rival.
Instead, he chose football, if it meant earning a living by selling ice cream in the street. At 16, he had almost given up the game after several rejections but then came an offer for a trial from America.
Settled in England, Richarlison now dreams of a place in Brazil’s Copa America squad. The five-time World Cup winners will host the tournament for the first time in 30 years and good displays could be a huge step for securing a place in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
A good chance to make a louder claim for a place is waiting on October 16th, when Brazil will lock horns with Argentina in Jeddah.
“I want to come back more often and I will work hard for it,” he promises.