It is not very common for Brazilian players take immediately to top tier European leagues in their debut seasons. That may be a generalization, but even the mighty Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, struggled a bit in his first year out of Brazil, and that’s despite playing in La Liga and alongside some world-class support.
But Watford youngster Richarlison is not a common player. Upon leaving Fluminense last summer for £11.5 million, he adapted himself rather quickly to the hardships of English football.
What is his secret? A big part of it is his playing style, which combines stereotypical flair and trickery with necessary directness and lends him complete focus on attacking the opponents’ goal. But part of it is also because he has a support network, which, ironically involves a couple players who were a bit embarrassed on the pitch by Richarlison and his teammates just the other day. That’s right, David Luiz and Willian are Richarlison’s English family.
“My family is not here so we get together and are always doing barbecues at Luiz’s home. We go on the PlayStation and I play as Watford, they play as Chelsea, and I always beat them!”
”We go out to restaurants in London too. I’ve gone on the London Eye with them, seen Big Ben and things like that. They help me a lot and give lots of advice on how to live here.”
The Chelsea duo’s advice isn’t limited to just restaurants or sightseeing. With Watford just a skip, hop, and a jump away from West London, Willian especially has taken on an almost personal coaching role, which has helped Richarlison tremendously in adjusting to the Premier League.
“He is always suggesting what type of plays I should try or what I can do better to score. The keepers are very big here and Willian says there is a particular way to score against them.”
“He shows me videos, telling me what positions I should take up, how to be intelligent on the pitch, how to move around. It is almost like he is my manager!”
”My professional career has only been going for three years and I have to learn from players like Willian and Luiz. People who have played at the World Cup.”
Given how well Richarlison has played against Chelsea, especially in the teams’ first meeting of the season, perhaps Willian needs to dial his advice back a bit!
That said, before their momentous victory over Chelsea on Monday, Watford had been on a somewhat of a slide, stemming from the drama created by their head coaching situation. Marco Silva’s departure did not sit too well with Richarlison, but he’s picked himself back up and got back to work, leading the Hornets’ attack and creating havoc in opposition defences. In fact, he’s even dethroned a certain Eden Hazard atop the Premier League’s most fouled players list, winning 77 fouls in 26 appearances (Hazard is on 55 in 22; though just about level in per-90 average). As Hazard has found out over the years, once you become a marked man, the bruises are sure to follow.
“If you are playing good you have to expect these things. Teams study us and they have started to double mark me, sometimes I’ve had three players to deal with.”
”I do feel some pain. My toenails are out of my foot because of all the stamps I have received during games. But it’s fine. This is the Premier League and the way they play here.”
-Richarlison; source: Evening Standard
Richarlison has obviously yet to reach Hazard’s level overall, but there is plenty of potential here. He’s showing all the promise necessary to be a thorn in Premier League (and Champions League) defenders’ sides for many years to come. He was briefly linked with Chelsea in January, and those rumors are sure to come back around for the summer as well, especially as he seems to fit Chelsea’s recent m.o. as far as the transfer market’s concerned — young, with lots of talent, and room left to improve.