'I watch my Copa America final goal every night!' - Everton and Brazil hero Richarlison reflects on a year to remember

After a golden summer with his country, Richarlison is targeting more success with his club.

And for Everton, that is good news indeed.

The Blues forward is known more for his scowls than his smiles, in truth, but he cannot conceal his delight as he sits down with Goal for an exclusive, one-one-one interview to discuss his rise as a professional.

A rise which, quite simply, is showing no sign of slowing.

First on the agenda, naturally, is the Copa America, clinched by Brazil on home soil last month. Richarlison was one of the new-boys in Tite’s squad, but he became the hero. In the final against Peru, it was his last-minute penalty which clinched the Selecao’s ninth Copa at a jubilant Maracana.

“I’ve been watching the video of my penalty goal every night!” Richarlison says, his eyes dancing. “It took a while for it to really sink in, to realise what we’d really achieved.

“For me and my family, it was a great achievement – and that was despite the difficulties that I had during the tournament…”

Let’s talk about those difficulties, shall we? Never mind scoring in the final, it was an achievement for Richarlison to even be there. 

He had started the tournament well, in the side as Brazil defeated Bolivia and drew with Venezuela. But having lost his place to, somewhat ironically, a player named Everton for the final group game, he was then diagnosed with mumps ahead of the quarter-final with Paraguay.

In isolation in a Porto Alegre hospital room, it looked to all intents and purposes as though his Copa was over.

“That was difficult,” Richarlison says. “Every day I would wake up and look in the mirror to see if the swelling in my neck had gone down.

“It was a miracle in some senses, because all the research I did said a minimum of two weeks recovery time. Even the doctor didn’t believe I could be back so quickly, in time for the semi-final and the final, but I managed to recover in four or five days.”

In doing so, and by scoring in the final and by lifting the trophy, Richarlison followed in the footsteps of his idol, the great Ronaldo Luis Nazario de Lima. The original Ronaldo, to you and I. 

“I love him,” says Richarlison, breaking out into another smile. “He’s one of the greatest players in football history. The reason I wear yellow boots is because of him. My memory of him is scoring lots of goals in yellow boots, so I chose mine in homage to him! 

“I think about him a lot, and watch videos of him on the way to games. I model myself on him as a player and will continue to do so, given what a great example he is.”

Richarlison on Ronaldo 2019

He tells a story of meeting Ronaldo at a Nike event in London last year.

“It was only for a few seconds, but I spoke to him,” he says. “He told me to keep going as I am, and that I could make it in the Brazilian national team. It was only 20 seconds but it was enough to make me really happy. 

“Before the event, I was shaking at the prospect of meeting him! I was so excited, because I’d only ever seen him before on TV. It was a really special moment for me.”

Richarlison clearly took his hero’s advice on board. Impressive enough at Watford, within a year he had earned a move to Everton, where his rise has continued. His debut campaign at Goodison Park brought 14 goals, and meant questions over his price-tag – his deal cost the Blues an initial £35 million ($42m) and could rise to £50m ($60m) – were swiftly forgotten.

Well, kind of. Richarlison, it emerges, has not forgotten the criticism which came his way following his transfer. 

“There was a lot of criticism and negativity about the value of my transfer fee,” he says. “And like it or not, it was a gamble from the club.

“The press were on top of me a little bit. I remember one guy [the former Arsenal and England star Paul Merson] said that I had ruined the transfer window, but he doesn’t know me as a player or a person, and even though we try to focus on training and playing, these things do get to us. 

“Thankfully, it didn’t hold me back and I had a good season. I kept my fitness good, my mind was good and I had a good finish to the season. It was here at Everton that I broke into the Brazilian national squad.”

Richarlison Everton 2018-19

Richarlison credits Marco Silva as having played a huge role in his development. It was Silva who, from under the nose of Ajax, took him to Watford in 2017, and Silva who pushed for his signing at Everton a year later. The pair, clearly, have an excellent relationship.

“Marco is the coach I have worked with most in my career, and we get on really well,” Richarlison says. “He’s there for me, we trust each other. We did that at Watford and now at Everton.

“He relates really well to the group, to all of the players. I’m really happy here, not just with him but with the whole of the coaching staff. The whole team is happy, and that makes us a strong collective unit.”

That unit, he hopes, is getting stronger too. The arrivals of Fabian Delph, Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Djibril Sidibe and Alex Iwobi, plus the permanent capture of Andre Gomes, mean there is optimism at Goodison ahead of their opening home game of the season. Naturally, given the presence of Silva and Richarlison, Watford are Saturday’s opponents.

“We dream of a place in the Europa League or the Champions League,” says Richarlison. “So bringing in these quality players increases our chances. They will make us stronger, and we will fight to meet these objectives.”

If they are to meet them, then their home form will be key. They got their act together at Goodison last season, drawing with Liverpool and beating Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal over a seven-week period in the spring. They have not conceded a goal on home soil since February. Watford, battered by Brighton on the opening weekend, can expect no freebies.

“For us playing at home is an extra joy,” Richarlison says. “That’s what it was like last season, we beat some big clubs and I think it will be the same this season. 

“When you are waiting in the tunnel and you hear that siren, that alarm, your hairs stand on end. You can smell blood and you go onto the pitch really excited and driven to perform for those supporters.”