Richarlison discusses his desire to be a starter at Qatar 2022
The Brazilian hails Neymar, Rodriguez and Calvert-Lewin
He assesses his best position and Everton’s lofty targets
Do you remember where you were when James Rodriguez executed that mind-blowing chest, swivel and volley against Uruguay? The Brazilians who can nod affirmatively are not limited to those among the 74,000 eye-witnesses at the Maracana.
One 17-year-old was sardined into the dingy backroom of the amateur team he was on the books at, amid the funk of sweat and muck, glued to a small, archaic television set.
How things have changed. Richarlison is now team-mates with that FIFA Puskás Award-winning Colombian and he’s dreaming of doing what his new colleague did in the FIFA World Cup™. And James, if you’re reading, the Brazilian plans on celebrating with a more eye-catching dance routine than you performed at Brazil 2014 or, furthermore, that Roger Milla did at Italy 1990.
The 23-year-old chats to FIFA.com about the ‘Pigeon Dance’, his desire to be a starter at Qatar 2022, his best position, Neymar, Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and Everton’s lofty ambitions.
FIFA.com: Richarlison, what are your memories of the World Cup? Richarlison: I was very young, but the memory that most stands out for me is the 2002 World Cup. That goal by Ronaldo, where Rivaldo let it run through his legs and Ronaldo controlled it and put it in the bottom corner. It’s an unforgettable memory for me. I’ve watched all the World Cups. Obviously the World Cup was in Brazil in 2014. I watched practically every game. I really wanted to go to a game at a stadium, but I was really young so I watched the games at the club I was playing for at U-17 level. I remember perfectly all the really beautiful goals. The [Robin] van Persie header, the [Arjen] Robben goal against Spain, the James Rodriguez volley. I was very happy that I could follow a World Cup in my own country. It was a really great tournament to watch.
You mentioned James Rodriguez. Can you believe you’re now playing alongside him? (laughs) I’ve fulfilled so many dreams already that I’m so grateful for. Playing alongside James Rodriguez is another one. I dreamed of playing for the Seleção innumerable times since I was very little, and playing alongside Neymar, Coutinho, all the Seleção players is a big dream for me. Gabriel Jesus is another. We’re from the same age group and when I was in the youth national teams, he was already a star, already playing first-team football, so he was a source of inspiration for me.
On the subject of dreams, how much have you dreamed about playing in the World Cup? So, so much. It’s a dream I’ve had since childhood. It’s the childhood dream of every Brazilian player. I love the World Cup. It’s an amazing tournament, it grips the whole world. I’ve watched every one as a fan of Brazil and of football, and I hope 2022 will be my first World Cup as a player. Obviously the Seleção have a lot to do beforehand. We have to get through the qualifiers and they’re not easy. We must prepare well and stay focussed. And I must do everything I can – work hard, look to learn – because I want to go to the World Cup in the starting XI.
You mentioned the South American qualifiers being tough… When teams face Brazil they raise their game. Everyone wants to beat Brazil. This makes it more difficult. And there are a lot of strong sides in South America. It’s not just Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay anymore. It’s always different teams qualifying and look at how impressive Colombia, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador have been at recent World Cups.
Have you imagined doing the pigeon dance at Qatar 2022? (laughs) It’s my trademark! Of course I’ve imagined doing the pigeon dance in the World Cup. The supporters really like it, it especially appeals to kids. I’ve done it for the Seleção together with Neymar, I do it for my club, and I want to score goals and do it many times at the 2022 World Cup.
On the subject of Neymar, what do you think of him? This year I think Neymar and Lewandowski were the best two players in the world. I really want to see Neymar win the FIFA award. He’s more focused than ever. I know how much he wants to win the World Cup, and I know that in 2022 he will do absolutely everything to win this Trophy for Brazil.
Who do you think are Brazil’s biggest rivals for the Trophy? France, Belgium, Holland. But the World Cup is very difficult – you have one bad game and you’re out. You simply can’t afford to slip up. We saw that at the last World Cup. We conceded two goals to Belgium and we were out. We are always trying to mature and improve so we can get to the World Cup in the best possible shape and avoid a slip-up.
What do you think is your best position? At Everton [Carlo] Ancelotti likes to use 4-4-2. I play as a centre-forward. I’ve told Ancelotti that’s where I like to play. That’s where I played when I started out at America [Mineiro]. I feel at my best there. When I play on the left wing it’s usually because we have an injury. Look, I’ll give my all there – I’d give my all anywhere – but if you’re asking me where I prefer to play it’s as a centre-forward. I’ve already told professor Tite that’s where I like to play, but it’s up to him and Ancelotti to make the decision and the most important thing to me is to be playing and giving my all for the shirt.
What’s Ancelotti like to work under? He’s a guy that’s won everything in the football world. He’s an inspiration for countless coaches. Professor Tite had some time with him at Real Madrid. It's a huge honour to play for one of the best coaches in history. I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to learn from him at Everton, and I feel he’s improved me a lot. He also brings a very happy environment for the players to work in.
Another player Ancelotti has seemingly improved a lot is Dominic Calvert-Lewin… Dominic’s development has been really impressive. He’s transformed into a complete striker. I remember when I got here he was nothing like the player he is today. It’s down to the work he’s put in. He’s in the gym every day, he’s always working on his finishing. And playing under Ancelotti he’ll keep getting better and better. He’s had a superb start to the season and without doubt deserved his England call-up. He must be a nightmare to play against and he has an incredible leap on him like Cristiano Ronaldo.
James Rodriguez has also made a superb start to the season. What do you think of him? He’s a very special talent. He’s the No10 for his national team, he’s got an outstanding pedigree – Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Porto. He’d walk into any team in the Premier League. I watch a lot of Premier League games – what team wouldn’t want James Rodriguez? He’s made a brilliant start at Everton, and I really hope it continues so we can achieve our targets this season.
What are those targets? We want to win a cup. The supporters here are really passionate and they have been waiting for this for too many years. I think now that we have Ancelotti, and with the signings he’s made, we can win a cup and fight for a Champions League place. Obviously it’s difficult in England because you have the [big] six, but we’re a different team from last season. We had a lot of injuries then and we’ve signed quality players in the positions we needed. We’ve made a really exciting start to the season and Ancelotti is keeping us focussed and motivating us. I really believe we can qualify for the Champions League.
The Merseyside Derby will unfold on 17 October, exactly ten years after Everton’s last victory over Liverpool in any competition. How important is an Everton victory? It’s a very important game, despite being worth three points like the other matches. The whole city stops to watch it and I want us to win to maintain our good form and give happiness to the Everton fans. I know it’s a game they are very excited to watch and it’s a special day for us too. Mainly because we’ll go into it on a good run and playing really well. We know that we’ll face great opponents, one of the best teams in Europe and one that was hurt in their last match. But we have to play our own game, try and impose ourselves on the game and get three points to stay top of the table.
Which things do you most like about living in England? Football. I always tell me friends that I don’t want to leave here too soon because it’s the best football in the world. Some things are difficult – the climate is very different, the people don’t talk as much as they do in Brazil – but I love the football here.
What do you like to do off the pitch? I love playing video games. I watch quite a bit of television too. I love war films. I’ve just been watching The Last Kingdom – it’s really good.