A trip to Goodison Park for a first hand check on Richarlison

Brazilfooty and the Dixie Dean statue at Goodison Park

Richarlison made a fine start to life at Everton, scoring three goals in his first two league games and impressing the fans with his work rate, skill and attitude. Brazilfooty witnessed the good vibes first hand.

For those reading this blog for the first time, you might be wondering what Brazilfooty is and who I am. The short answer is that it is website about Brazilian football. The main author, me, Brian, grew up loving South American football and dreaming about living in South America, which I eventually did. First, for a year in Buenos Aires, where I was a River Plate season ticket holder and worked for a semi professional football team. And later, in São Paulo, where I lived for three years, and started writing this blog in 2011.

I also happen to be an Everton fan, which I have rarely spoken about being on this blog, mainly because there hasn’t been much of a link between Everton and Brazilian football to discuss; the most famous one was probably Pelé’s appearances for Brazil at Everton’s Goodison Park stadium in the 1966 World Cup, where he had lumps kicked out of him, Brazil finished third and failed to qualify for the second round. A dubious link at best.

It hasn’t been much better for the Brazilian players that have graced Goodison Park wearing an Everton shirt either. Before this summer, the best Brazilian to play for Everton was Jô, who showed flashes of potential and scored a few goals when on loan from Manchester City. Ultimately though he was inconsistent his loan deal was terminated by David Moyes after he went to Brazil for Christmas without getting permission.

The only other Brazilians to play for Everton that I can remember are Anderson Silva, who managed just one league match for the club (pictured below), and Rodrigo, who played a few league games before suffering a serious knee injury and moving back to Brazil. The Brazil – Everton links might have been a bit better had the club finalised a deal for Seleção forward Müller in 1994, but that fell through at the last minute over an argument about wages, tax and whether or not the club would be giving him a free house and car.

The good news for me – both as a blogger and as an Everton fan – is that those lousy links between Everton and Brazil have changed this year. The club now has a Portuguese coach, which makes talking to Brazilian players a lot easier, and good director of football, who follows the Brazilian league. Those two had only been in their jobs for a few months before Everton signed two very good young Brazilian players; Richarlison is 21 years old and cost £40 million, while Bernard has 14 Brazil caps and signed on a free transfer. Everton also bought Yerry Mina this summer, who is Colombian, I know, but he made a big impression in Brazil with Palmeiras, where he won the league (alongside Gabriel Jesus) in 2016 and was selected in the Serie A team of the year. I’m sure that Marcel Brands was aware of him thanks to his performances in Brazilian football.

Barcelona sign defender Yerry Mina from Palmeiras

With the Brazil connection now in place, a desire to see Marco Silva’s new look Everton side in the flesh, and having promised my girlfriend I would take her to an Everton game for a long time, I forked out the cash for two match tickets to see Everton v Southampton, train tickets to Liverpool from London and a hotel.

Goodison Park is a great stadium, with a lot of history and with the seats being so close to the pitch, there can be a great atmosphere at games. But one of the problems at Goodison Park is that some seats in the ground have obstructed views – in some, the view of the pitch is obstructed by a pillar; in others, there is a roof in the way. Since the stadium was built in 1892, engineering has come a long way, which is one of the reasons that Everton are planning to build a new dockside stadium at the Bramley Moore dock. As it happens, when I went to buy tickets for the Everton v Southampton match, the only two that I could get hold of had obstructed views. The good news was that they were in the lower tier of the Gwladys Street, the end of the ground with the best atmosphere.

The problem was, that whenever anybody in front of us stood up, which happened a fair bit, our view of the pitch got blocked. It wasn’t too much of an issue though and I had a really good time. Being in that part of Goodison reminded me bit of Santos’ stadium, the Vila Belmiro, where, like Goodison Park some seats are very close to the pitch, but others have obstructed views. Despite these issues, Goodison Park and the Vila Belmiro are two of the most iconic stadiums in world football, and I feel privileged to have visited them both.

We may have had the worst view of the pitch in the house, but we had the best atmosphere. Since we were right at the back under the tier, the noise of the fans was amplified. And this season, with the feelgood factor back and the team rejuvenated under Marco Silva, the atmosphere was great. As for my Brazilian scouting mission, since Bernard and Yerry Mina were both unfit I had to make do with watching Richarlison, which wasn’t a bad thing, after his stunning two goal debut against Wolves a week earlier.

Richarlison in action at Goodison Park

Close to the action at the Vila Belmiro stadium

As an avid watcher of Brazilian football, I followed Richarlison’s progress before he moved to the Premier League. He began his career with América Mineiro, who played in Brazil’s second division at the time. His good performances for them earned him a move to Fluminense, one of Brazil’s bigger clubs, in 2016. He made a name for himself there by scoring 8 goals in 10 games in the Rio state championship in 2017. The level of the Rio state championship competition is mixed, but it does feature the top four teams in Rio so it is no mean feat to earn a place in the team of the tournament, which is exactly what Richarlison did. (Note: in Brazil’s confusing calendar there are state championships, a national league and multiple intercontinental cup competitions – for more see the ‘about’ section of this blog at the top left of this page).

After those performances many people across Brazil started to take notice. He kept up his good form in the national league, catching the attention of São Paulo-based club Palmeiras, at the time, and still, Brazil’s wealthiest club. They were looking to find a replacement for Gabriel Jesus and they wanted to sign a forward that could play down in the middle or on the wings. Richarlison fit the bill perfectly. With Fluminense’s finances in a terrible shape, and the club under pressure to sell, a move looked inevitable and a fee in excess of 10 million euros was nearly agreed.

To force a move through, or perhaps because he was genuinely unsettled, Richarlison asked not to play in one of Fluminense’s league games. The match in question was against Palmeiras themselves. But the issue was not only that the match was against the club that was trying to sign him, it was that if he played another game for Fluminense that season, a move to another Brazilian club wouldn’t have been possible, as per the rules. Needless to say, Ricarlison’s decision didn’t go down very well with his coach or the fans.

The move eventually fell through, which left the player in tears, but after a sulk for a few days and a heart to heart conversation with his coach, Abel Braga, he knuckled down and continued to play well for Fluminense and score goals after that. If my memory serves me right, I think that he was selected for Fluminense the following weekend. Once it was clear that he wouldn’t be going to another Brazilian club, he was linked with Chelsea and Ajax, before eventually moving to Watford. From what I can see, he left the club on good terms and wasn’t considered to be a bad apple, despite the Palmeiras ordeal. His Instagram post below, in response to the failed move says: “those who know me know that I don’t do those kind of things. I’m not a mercenary. I’m not a coward. Sorry, I didn’t want to upset anybody.”

Postagem de Richarlinson no Instagram

Before leaving for Watford, Richarlison ended up with five goals in 15 Brasileirao Série A league games, which was not bad given the turmoil at Fluminense. I must admit that I was quite surprised and a little disappointed that Everton didn’t make a move for him at the time, particularly after they had sold Romelu Lukaku. Although at the time I reassured myself that Walsh and Koeman knew what they were doing and must have had better targets in mind, which, err, obviously turned out not to be the case.

I can’t claim to have any secret insight into the player’s style or ability just because I’ve seen him play in Brazil. Everton fans have already seen what he can do for themselves, and observers of the Premiership saw it with their own eyes when he played for Watford. He has pace, skill, he is direct and he works very hard for the team. His downfall, in my opinion, is that he loses concentration at key moments and he will do things like under hitting a key pass to a teammate, or shooting into the side netting when it looks easier to score. It might be because he works so hard that he is completely knackered when he gets into the right positions. Perhaps with an arm around his shoulder and a little more experience he will pace himself during games and compose himself better in those situations.

What I can say that many UK-based punters may not know is that before signing for Watford he had played football for a year and half nonstop. Yes, his dip in form coincided with Marco Silva’s departure from the club, but it almost certainty also had a lot to do with him playing football for so long without a break – nearly two and a half years by the end of the 2017/18 English season. The Brazilian season runs from February to December each year and Richarlison played a full season for América Mineiro and Fluminense in 2016. And instead of going on holiday in the Brazilian summer, he played for the Brazil u20 team at the 2017 South American championships, which began in mid January and run until mid February. He went straight back to Fluminense after that. I can’t think of any player that wouldn’t burn out under those circumstances.

Richarlison shortly after signing for Fluminense (Pic: Bruno Haddad/Fluminense F.C.)

As for the Everton v Southampton game, I thought Everton played pretty well, although not amazingly, in the first half. They went into the break leading 2-0 though and had taken their chances. The first goal was an excellently worked free kick, tucked in by Theo Walcott. The second was scored by Richarlison himself, who snuck in from the left wing and headed home a cross from Theo Walcott. At that point, in his one and a half games with his new team, Richarlison had scored three goals: strikers instincts on the first; a brilliant winger’s goal on the second; and aerial ability for the third.

Southampton didn’t really look like scoring in that fist half and with the onus on them to attack in the second half, and offering little up front in the first half, I expected Everton to pick them off on the counter attack. It didn’t turn out like that though and Everton’s underbelly – a shoddy defence, despite being trained by a supposedly defensive coach in Sam Allardyce for half a season – came to the fore once again and they gave Southampton a goal from a set piece. That made it a nervy second half. And although Everton were still creating chances on the break, they were failing to take them.

Admittedly, my analysis of the game may have been slightly impaired with the restricted view, and me downing three pints in ten minutes before kick off (I forgot that unlike World Cup matches, you cannot take beer into the seating area in England!), but from what I saw, Richarlison was Everton’s most dangerous attacker. And he provided much more threat on the left wing than Theo Walcott on the right. The Brazilian was getting fans off their seats with his direct attacking play and skill. Not everything he tries comes off, but his tenacity, skill and work rate have made him a fans’ favourite. He has even has his own song already, which was chanted throughout the game.

The thing that has most endeared him to Everton fans is his humility and the effort he makes to engage with them. Despite only being at the club for a few months, Twitter is already full of stories and photos of him stopping to say hello to fans, posing for photos with kids, giving away his boots or his shirts to young fans. He even signed some guy’s cast who broke his arm celebrating one of his goals against Wolves. Richarlison isn’t fluent in English, but his willingness to mingle is top class. I wouldn’t read too much into the Palmeiras saga. Richarlison seems like a top guy to me.

As for his character, he has a pretty strong character reference from the Fluminense club president Pedro Abad, who said this after the Palmeiras incident: “I ask, for the love of God, to the Fluminense fans. Don’t be hostile to Richarlison. He is a very professional player. When he came back from national team duty at the beginning of the year, he could have taken a holiday, but he chose not to. He gives everything for the club on and off the pitch. He gives his life for the club. He is a young player, easily influenced and we need to understand that. He will still give us a lot of happiness this year when he wears the Fluminense shirt again. We will support the player. Don’t be hostile towards him”.

I chose to wear an Brazil shirt to the game against Southampton, which I suspect does not happen at Goodison Park very often. I thought it would be cool to represent Brazilfooty at Goodison Park with a Seleção shirt and I also let my girlfriend wear my Everton shirt so she’d feel like a proper Toffee. But the main reason I wore it, was that I wanted to give a nod to Richarlison. And as well as the shirt, I tied a Brazilian flag behind the goal at half time. (I would have done it before the match but I was too busy downing three pints.) It took me about ten minutes to find a suitable spot and eventually tie it to the mesh, after which time I realised that it was upside down and the second half was about to begin. It was also in front of Everton’s right wing when attacking, and not on the left were Richarlison was playing, so all in all you could say that was a bit of a fail really.

An upside down Brazil flag swaying in the Goodison breeze

But wearing the Brazil shirt was fun. It was interesting walking down the Gwladys Street wearing the gold of the Seleção – I got a few interesting glances: some as if to say, what you doing mate? A few more, as it to say, nice one – Richarlison, top guy. I also got a big, firm hug at the end of the match by a Toffee who told me that that he loves that shirt.

The red side of town have had their own Brazilian contingent for a while, but I am glad that Everton are in on the act now. And about time too. More and more Brazilians are coming to the Premier League and many Brazilians kids now grow up dreaming of playing in England, which is pretty cool. Barcelona and Real Madrid remain the two most desirable destinations, and culturally it is easier for Brazilians to adapt to Italy or Spain than England, but I’m happy that more and more are choosing the Premier League these days: a record 20 Brazilians are playing the Premier League, at 11 different clubs, in the 2018/19 season.

As for the game, despite a few nervy moments, Everton it out and won 2-1. It wasn’t the most fluent football, but you could see what Marco Silva is trying to do, but it was positive, three points in the bag and much better football than last year. The day ended on a good note and Richarlison had scored. Happy days.

We continued with the Brazilian theme that evening by having dinner at a fantastic Brazilian restaurant called Fazenda. It wasn’t cheap, but given the amount of delicious meat that we ate, plus a full buffet of other Brazilian food to choose from, it was good value for money. For those who like eating meat, I recommend a Brazilian rodizio. As well as the buffet, every couple of minutes a waiter passes your table with a different cut of meat on a skewer after it has been cooked to perfection. You have a little tab on your table which is red on one side and green on the other. Green: bring me more meat. Red: I’m taking it easy for now. And you can flip between green and red as much as you want.

After chatting with our waiter, who was Brazilian, it turns out that Merseyside’s growing contingent of Brazilian footballers frequent that restaurant. As well as stuffing my face full of delicious food, I was happy to know that such a place exists on Merseyside, since eating there will certainly help Richarlison, Bernard and co. feel at home. And if Everton’s Brazilians haven’t eaten there already, I suspect they will be eating there in the near future. It turns out that there are other four Brazilian restaurants in the city so I’m happy that the Everton players are in good hands.

Bliss

A day before Everton v Southampton, the Seleção squad for upcoming friendlies against the United States and El Salvador, on the 7th and 11th of September, was announced. Despite scoring two goals against Wolves on his debut six days before the announcement, Richarlison was left out. I wasn’t entirely surprised (after all, one game doens’t earn you a call up for the national team), but I know that he was observed by Brazil’s technical staff when playing for Watford last year and it seems like he came close to getting called up. And with the team in need of renewing with fresh blood after the disappointment of the World Cup, I thought that Richardlison had an outside chance of getting the call. Ironically, and disappointingly for Richarlison, a player called Everton kept hm out. The 22 year old player, called Everton, has been in excellent form this year, playing as a left winger in an attacking three for Grêmio.

Richarlison faces competition from Everton for a place in the Seleção (Pedro H Tesch/Agência Eleven/GazetaPress)

With Neymar playing in that position and Real Madrid’s up and coming youngsters, 18-year-old Vinicius Junior and 17-year-old Rodrygo, also likely to provide stern competition in that position in the future, Richarlison will have been gutted that Everton got the nod ahead of him. He didn’t show that disappointment in his performance against Southampton though and when asked about not getting picked, he said something that made Everton fans love him even more: “I aim to be the top scorer in the Premier League and get Everton into the Champions League and that way get into the national team”.

Great attitude. As it happens, he now has been called up to the Seleção for these two games, after his ex teammate from Fluminense, Pedro, pulled out with an injury. Unlucky for Pedro, who had been called up for the first time himself. (For more information about Pedro and the other best young players playing in Brazil, check out my report on Brazil’s top 10 youngsters.)

Brazil have tons of attacking wingers, but not very many centre forwards. Unlike Richarlison, Pedro exclusively plays as a number nine and some see him as Brazil’s future number nine. It is interesting that Richarlison was chosen to replace him when he pulled out injured, and not Gabriel Jesus, who is not in the squad. I’m sure that Gabriel Jesus is still in Tite’s plans, but I am also sure that he is looking for alternatives in the number nine position. And it may be the case that he sees Richarlison as a candidate for that position. He played there a few times for Fluminense, and his ability to play down the middle was one of the reasons that Palmeiras were interested in signing him last year. It remains to be seen how Marco Silva uses him at Everton, but when Bernard settles, it is possible that he plays Bernard on the left and pushes Richarlison up front. We’ll have to wait and see. If Richarlison can crack the number nine position, that might be the best route for him to stay in Seleção. Good luck to him in the upcoming games.

Richarlison and Pedro: good mates (pic: source unknown)

Brazilfooty at Goodison Park

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2 thoughts on “A trip to Goodison Park for a first hand check on Richarlison

  1. Good solid honest blog mate, really enjoyed it. Dunno if you ever seen the Bayern game of 85 on video or dvd, blast it up on surround sound and if digitised even better, not sure it would do it justice though, it was the greatest atmosphere and best nights of football i have ever been involved in. Street end all standing, i looked around and even fans in the stands were standing and singing. Time to be bring the terraces back for people who wish to stand and sing, can’t beat it. Cheers bud.

    • Glad you enjoyed the blog Paul. I’ve heard about the Bayern Munich game. Met a guy on a bus up to Goodison Park once who told me about that game (and who also told me he missed his final uni exams to make it to the away leg of that tie). Legendary stuff and must have been a great atmosphere. Good idea to get it on DVD – I might try and do that. Cheers.

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