Richarlison is one of the big stories in the Premier League at the start of this season. The most expensive signing in Everton’s history, the 21 year old Brazilian striker scored three goals in his first three games for his new club and was called up by Tite for Brazil's friendlies in the USA, where he came on for 15 minutes against the USA and made his first start for his country against El Salvador on Tuesday night in Maryland, scoring two goals in Brazil's 5-0 win.
The young star now playing his football on Merseyside spoke to As about his meteoric rise, as well as his poor childhood and the difficulties which almost saw him give up on the sport.
At 45 million euros you’re the most expensive signing in Everton’s history, near the top of the goalscoring charts in the Premier League and now part of the Brazil set-up… all this at just 21. What a start to the season!
It still all feels a little bit surreal. I’m living a dream I’ve had since I was a lad. I always wanted to play in the Premier and now to look at the goalscoring charts and see my name up there is something I need to get used to, honestly (laughs).
In the space of two years you’ve gone from the Brazilian second division to one of the most historic clubs in England…
And you’re only talking about professional football. In the youth set-up everything went maybe even faster. I only played 11 games with the youth team before going up to the first team. I scored two goals in my first two games as a professional and the rest is history. These are things I’m not able to explain. I think it’s hard work, persistence, faith and having a huge amount of mental strength to overcome obstacles.
Is it true you were on the point of quitting football when clubs kept rejecting you?
Yes. I don’t have enough fingers on my two hands to count the number of clubs who rejected me. I was on the point of quitting football, but I kept my head up and went to Belo Horizonte with just the money for the journey there for the last trial I had, with América MG. If I hadn’t made it, I wouldn’t have had enough money to get home, to Espíritu Santo, 600 kilometres from there. I gave it everything I had that morning and I got through. If I’d given up after the first ‘no’, I wouldn’t be where I am.
What memories and lessons have you taken from your childhood growing up with little money and in tough times.
The situation my family was in. I had to live in my uncle’s house because it was closer to where I trained and I didn’t have money for the bus. I sold sweeties and ice-creams in the street and worked in the fields to help my parents. I had to do that, because everyone was doing everything they could so that I could realise my dream of being a footballer. I’ve learnt that you need patience, persistence and faith in people to reach your objectives.
Did you have a hero when you were a child?
My heroes were my father and my uncle, who played at regional level and were really good. My father was more of a passer, he had great vision and my uncle was a great finisher. I learnt a lot from them, they are my heroes on the pitch and in life.
And a professional footballer?
Ronaldo, O Fenômeno. He’s one of a kind and deserves his nickname. The other day I had the pleasure of meeting him and it was incredibly exciting. I’ve got a ritual I always do when I’m on the bus on the way to games. I grab a tablet and I put on videos of his goals to start getting ready.
How have you adapted to England?
It was smooth, but some things you do notice. The cold, the distance from your family and friends. But I focused all my attention on my work - to overcome any difficulties. I’m taking English classes and I already understand a fair but the tough thing is talking. Though I’ll fix that with time.
You started last season really well, but fell away at the end. What happened?
I learnt a lot last year. The physical side of things was really important. I hadn’t had a holiday in a year and a half when I arrived in England in the summer of 2017 and I didn’t do the pre-season with Watford because I was with the Brazil Under-20. It was two and a half years without stopping and at some point that affects your body. This year I’ve rested, I’ve done the whole pre-season and with that I think I’m going to be able to be at the same level all year.
Javi Gracia was very sad about you leaving. How was your relationship with him?
It was really good. He’s an excellent coach. He arrived at a difficult time, in the middle of the year, but he finished up helping up to finish in the season in an honourable position in the Premier.
What do you think about Watford being joint leaders?
Very happy, mainly because I’ve got lots of friends there. It was the club that brought me to England and gave me an opportunity, for which I’ll always be grateful. The club and the fans have always treated me with a lot of love - it’s something I’ll never forget.
From América to Fluminense. From Fluminense to Watford. From Warford to Everton. From Everton to… ¿Real Madrid or Barcelona?
You’re putting me in a tight spot there… (laughs). They are two giant clubs, the dream of any player. But I’ve just arrived at Everton and I’m happy. In the end, the next step will depend a lot on what I do here. So I’m hoping to do a lot of great things at Everton, win something important and return the confidence of the club and the fans. That’s my big motivation right now.
How does it feel to join up with the Brazilian national side?
I was at home playing video-games when Edu Gaspar (director of the Brazilian sides) called me. It was a marvellous feeling and I hope it happens many times more.
What can we expect from Richarlison in 2018-19?
I hope to have a great season, keep helping Everton and win myself a definite place in the Brazilian side. Those are my goals. Of course with time it can all change. The bar can go higher and the steps bigger, more ambitious. So what’s needed is a lot of work and maintaining focus for it to happen. And hopefully it happens.