Richarlison was a standout for Brazil in their opening match of the 2022 World Cup.
Former Everton midfielder Tom Cleverley admitted that he did not expect Richarlison to become a “top, top player,” but revealed how he left his former Watford teammates speechless after his first training session in 2017.
Richarlison, who moved from Goodison Park to Tottenham Hotspur in a £60 million deal last summer, continued his impressive form on the international stage on Thursday as Brazil defeated Serbia 2-0 in their World Cup opener.
He fired both goals in the second half for Selecao, with his second coming via an outrageous overhead kick as Tite’s side searched for their answer to star man Neymar Jnr being withdrawn from action due to an ankle injury. It takes his tally to 19 goals in just 39 appearances for Brazil.
It was without a doubt the finest moment of his career to date, with the 25-year-old now one of the first names on his nation’s teamsheet as they search for a record sixth Worl Cup triumph in Qatar this winter.
However, it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the forward, who has had to fight an abundance of cynics during his time in the Premier League so far, with even his former Watford team-mate, Cleverley, admitting he did not expect Richarlison to climb up the football pyramid and lead his nation’s charge for first World Cup triumph in 20 years this winter.
“If someone had said to me five years ago, ‘Would you see him [Richarlison] playing in the Qatar World Cup and setting it alight?’ I would probably say, ‘That’s a meteoric rise?!’, said Cleverley, who spent one season at Watford with the Brazilian.
“The one thing he did have was a massive drive to be in between the box and score goals. I will never forget his first session obviously everyone knew nothing about him.
“We did a finishing drill and I remember thinking he could really bang it with both feet. He was putting experienced defenders in the net with him with headers and everyone was looking at each other thinking this lad doesn’t mind a challenge. “Those were the two things that stood out from his first session,”
The Tottenham Hotspur forward would spend just one season at Vicarage Road before making the move to Goodison Park, in a £50m deal in the summer of 2018. It would be on Merseyside, under numerous managers, where Richarlison would forge an encouraging reputation for himself as he fired 43 Premier League goals in 135 appearances.
”I’ll be honest, I didn’t see a top, top player,” added Cleverley. “But he’s got the best out of himself to be on the biggest stage with probably the tournament favorites.”