Supporters of the Premier League’s ‘top six’ barely bothered to hide their scorn this summer when Everton splashed out the considerable sum of £40m for Watford’s 21 year old striker Richarlison. It smacked of desperation, they claimed as they guffawed at a fee that was considered folly even in a transfer market that has long spiralled into lunacy. An esteemed journalist meanwhile put forward the notion that the admittedly hefty figure ‘perverted’ the market for everybody else.
How much of this widespread consternation was down to sheer snobbery towards a club that was perceived to be somehow unentitled to spend the same fortunes as those who regularly inhabit Champions League spots is difficult to determine but certainly that was a factor. As too was the undeniable fact that Richarlison had just enjoyed then endured a streaky debut campaign in English football, first dazzling at Vicarage Road following his move from Fluminense, then drifting into virtual anonymity from January onwards.
It was this inconsistency that led to many of his detractors deeming the player to be a flash in the pan as the big-money transfer north was finalised yet what few seemed to acknowledge, at the time or subsequently, was the direct correlation between the forward’s slump in influence and the departure of Marco Silva that coincided with it. Richarlison has gone on record as describing the Portuguese coach as a’ father figure’ and his absence was sorely felt in the latter half of 2017/18 as the youngster was repositioned more central and deprived of opportunities to roam and express himself. A staggering 53 shots that failed to find the net meanwhile illustrates that although he has a great many qualities Richarlison is clearly not, and never will be, an out-and-out poacher.
What he is however is a persistent tormentor of defences: a combination of intelligence and pace who ruthlessly exploits the channels should space be available or drops deep and pulls the opposition out of shape if not. He’s a baller in possession and a pest throughout and more so he is a player who thrives on freedom and a man who responds to trust. His reunion then with Silva – a mentor who affords his star such freedom while lavishing him with forty million pounds’ worth of trust – was always going to spark a second honeymoon period at Goodison Park. Nobody though could have anticipated to what extent.
We are a mere fortnight into the new campaign and already the striker has bagged three goals – more than in his previous 31 appearances for the Hornets – and put in consecutive Man of the Match performances. When structure is required he’s been on the money winning 4.5 aerial duels in both matches; at other times he’s offered a cutting edge to Everton’s attack that they have desperately lacked in recent times. Additionally, for whatever it is worth in real terms, he has wasted no time in securing hero status among the fans.
Better yet, no-one is scoffing at the transfer fee anymore.
Next up for the Brazilian is Bournemouth away and though it’s true that the Cherries have themselves got off to an early flyer, gaining maximum points and impressing in the manner in which they over-turned a first-half deficit to West Ham last weekend, it’s equally pertinent that Eddie Howe’s side is hardly one set up to negate. Theirs is an open approach as evidenced by only three clean sheets kept at the Vitality Stadium throughout the whole of last season and with Richarlison rebooted and rejuvenated we can expect Nathan Ake and Steve Cook to suffer a torrid time on the south coast this Saturday afternoon. Furthermore, this is a fixture that never fails to offer up plenty of goals with 25 from the previous six encounters.
If you believe that Richarlison won’t be involved in at least one of them then you still have your head firmly stuck in the summer sand.
Which brings us to possibly the most notable aspect of the forward’s immediate impact made at his new club. Because every year there is one transfer that sticks out from the rest, gaining undue attention and placing unimaginable pressure on the player concerned. At a tender age Richarlison has struggled off that deadening weight from the get-go, even going as far as to state this week that he intends to out-score Salah and co and claim the Golden Boot.
How much is such confidence worth? It could be reasoned to be priceless.