Like another Seleção legend whose name started with ‘R’ and wore the gold #9 jersey, Richarlison grew up playing football on the streets and is starting to show the same eye for goal as Ronaldo. The similarities with ‘O Fenomeno’ don’t just end there, with the Everton forward saying he’s inspired in more ways than one by the Brazilian legend.
Speaking to Spanish media outlet AS after his brace drove Brazil to an easy 5-0 romp over El Salvador a couple of nights ago, Richarlison spoke about how Ronaldo still motivates him when he was asked who his sporting idol was.
“Ronaldo, ‘O Fenomeno’. He is a special player and deserves the nickname he has. The other day I had the pleasure of meeting him and it was very emotional (for me).
“I have a ritual that I always do on the bus on my way to games. I take the tablet and put videos of his goals to get pumped up.”
Coming from an impoverished background keeps Richarlison humble and his feet on the ground.
“I still see it all as a bit surreal. I’m realizing a dream I had since I was a kid. I always wanted to play in the Premier League and now looking at the scorers’ table and seeing my name up there is something I have to get used to, it’s the truth (laughs).
“These are things that I can not explain. I think it’s hard work, perseverance, faith and a lot of mental strength to overcome the obstacles.”
More than once following rejection after rejection he was close to giving up the game for good.
“Yes. The fingers of both hands do not reach me to count the number of clubs that have turned me down. I was about to leave football, but I raised my head and went to Belo Horizonte with only the money for the one-way ticket for the last trial I had, in América MG.
“If it did not work out, I did not have the money to go home, in Espíritu Santo, 600 kilometers away. I gave my life that morning and I was selected. If I had quit after the first one, I would not have arrived where I am.”
Richarlison was also asked about how he has settled in living in England, and what was behind his decline in the second half of last season.
“The cold, the distance of family and friends. But I put all my attention in training to overcome the difficulties. I’m taking English classes and I understand a lot, the difficulty is speaking, but with time I’ll fix it.
“When I arrived in England in the summer of 2017 I did not go through the preseason of Watford because I was with Brazil U-20. It was basically two and a half years without stopping and at some point the body takes its toll.
“This summer I rested, played a full preseason and with that I think I can be at the same level throughout the year.”
That’ll come as good news to Everton fans as he’s off to a hot start with three goals in three appearances. His comments about his future will excite Blues even more, when he was asked what was next and if his goalscoring exploits meant Real Madrid and Barcelona could come knocking.
“That’s a tricky question (laughs). They are two giants, the dream of any player. But I just got to Everton, I’m very happy.
“The next step will depend a lot on what I do here. I hope to do a lot of good things in Everton, to win something significant and to give back the confidence of the club and the fans. This is my great motivation right now.
“I hope to have a great season, to continue helping Everton and to finally win a spot in the Brazilian national team. These are my goals.
“Of course, everything can change over time. The bar can go up and the steps can be bigger and more ambitious. It takes a lot of work and maintain concentration for that to happen. And hopefully it happens.”