Brazil is a country of a little more than 214 million people.
So the man that wears the highly symbolic No 9 shirt for the world-famous men’s national football team is pretty special, and to call Richarlison ‘one in a million’ is underselling his gifts, and his rarefied position at the apex of the country’s public consciousness, by an order of magnitude.
He’s an idol to so many, a £60million spearhead of probably the biggest footballing country on the planet, who only scored one Premier League goal last season.
It’s clear he has the ability and mentality to thrive at Spurs – but how new manager Ange Postecoglou coaxes his brilliant international form to the club stage is another question. Below, Mail Sport attempts to provide the answers.
Richarlison has shown brilliant form for Brazil since being given the striking role and No 9 shirt
But the 26-year-old forward has struggled to translate that international form to club level
Below, Mail Sport analyses how manager Ange Postecoglou can bring his Brazil form to Spurs
Struggles at Tottenham
At the time Tottenham splashed out £60m on Richarlison, narrowly behind £65m midfielder Tanguy Ndombele as Spurs’ record signing, many – including this journalist – felt it was a shrewd move.
A proven Premier League player, versatile, relatively young, physically, mentally and technically strong, providing outstanding competition and cover for the front three of Son Heung-min, Kane and Dejan Kulusevski. It seemed likely he would get plenty of game time, maybe even force his way into the XI. It didn’t quite work out like that.
None of that trio suffered the kind of injury that would have seen Richarlison given a prolonged run in the team. Kane played 49 games in all competitions last season. Son and Kulusevski, despite drops in form, 47 and 37 respectively. So signing him without having a clear plan for when and where he would fit in was questionable.
On several occasions, the former Fluminense star was poised to come in but he picked up an injury. Largely reduced to 10-15 minute appearances off the bench, he struggled to find true match sharpness and rhythm, sometimes (understandably) seeming on a different wavelength to his new team-mates.
He had so many seemingly cathartic goals disallowed by VAR for marginal offsides that it became a running joke among football fans, with multiple pigeon dance celebrations retrospectively made to look a little silly.
The one Premier League goal that did count was a 93rd minute equaliser at Anfield to make it 3-3, sparking wild scenes of delight. Reds forward Diogo Jota scored in the 94th minute to win the game 4-3 and some felt Richarlison was cursed.
Postecoglou’s predecessor Antonio Conte is many things but a gifted man-manager is not among them. When a frank and self-reflective Richarlison admitted his season had been ‘shit’ in a TV interview in Brazil in March, Conte publicly agreed with him.
That kind of ‘stick, not carrot’ treatment clearly did not work for Richarlison – like another gifted attacker in Eberechi Eze at Crystal Palace under Patrick Vieira – but the good news is, that can easily be changed.
Richarlison scored one league goal last season and missed four big chances: sofascore.com
Shining for the Selecao
The man they call Pombo (pigeon)? Brazil just get him.
Not to say Tottenham can’t ever, but Canarinha stars can understand and relate to his struggles growing up in poverty, suffering several early knockbacks, recovering from rejection to eventually earn his keep in football after spending all his money on a 600-kilometre one-way ticket to Belo Horizonte for a make-or-break trial.
Former Brazil manager Tite, who led the country from 2016 until after the World Cup in December 2022, recognised Richarlison’s talent and frequently says ‘he smells of goals’ (though Tottenham fans might disagree). ‘He doesn’t look to the side, Tite adds. ‘He only has eyes for the goal.’
Amid plenty of competition for the central striking spot – Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Pedro, Gabriel Barbosa, Matheus Cunha, to name a few – Tite has always backed him. Even rivals like Pedro admit he has the ‘essencia do Brasileiro’ – the true essence of a Brazilian.
Though Brazil, among the favourites until they were knocked out on penalties by Croatia in the quarter-finals, it was probably the highlight of Richarlison’s career so far. In their first group stage game against Serbia, at half-time he told his team-mates to find him and he would score.
After tapping home a rebound, he took one touch to flick a Vinicius Junior cross upwards, before spinning and unleashing a wonderfully improvised capoeira volley. Football as art, football as dance, football as joy.
After Brazil thrashed South Korea 4-1 in the round of 16, Ronaldo, O Fenomeno, the original R9, interviewed Richarlison, dazzled by the man who was his childhood hero. Ronaldo told him it was his turn to inspire Brazil and the next generation with his ‘art, goals, joy, spontaneity and feelings’.
That player is in there. Spurs just need to get him out.
Richarlison scored a wonderful spinning volley in the group stages against Serbia (pictured)
Despite the team’s failure, the Qatar World Cup in 2022 was the highlight of the star’s career
How Ange can help find his best
Richarlison was the victim of muddled plans at Spurs. Now, at least, there is clarity. Clarity of style and structure under the canny Postecoglou, clarity of his role in the squad: with Kane gone, the literal and figurative No 9.
Unless Spurs sign another striker before the end of the summer transfer window, ‘Richy’ will almost certainly not be dropped for 19-year-old Argentine prospect Alejandro Veliz.
He needs a little time, a little faith, a little trust. All of which he should now get.
Stern and unswerving Italian Conte was not the man to indulge Richarlison. Postecoglou, himself a scrappy underdog who knows what it is like to be underestimated, has the emotional intelligence to understand how to put an arm around his shoulder and maximise his potential.
Similarly, Fulham boss Marco Silva, while working with the Brazilian at Watford and Everton, is said to have been a strong fatherly figure influential in the 26-year-old’s success at those clubs.
But Postecoglou is also an intelligent coach. Taking over at Celtic in summer 2021, he improved their goals tally from 78 to 92 to 114, with Japanese striker Kyogo Furuhashi bagging 41 goals in just 58 league appearances under the Australian’s stewardship.
I’m not saying it’s guaranteed he scores 20 goals this season. But progress is rarely a straight upwards line, and Erling Haaland’s seamless adaptation to a new team is the exception rather than the rule in the Premier League.
This could well be Richarlison’s year.
The emotionally intelligent and attack-minded coach Postecoglou, who arrived in north London this summer, has the ability to get the most out of Richarlison in the coming season
The star’s tallies at Watford and Everton prove he can succeed at Spurs. Credit: sofascore.com