Richarlison: Meet the two-footed, goalscoring Brazilian youngster who has joined Watford

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and those doubting that the maxim can be applied to football would do well to take a look at Fluminense's progress this year.

Most sides in Brazil seek to resolve problems ("seek to" being the operative words there) by splashing the cash, filling their squads with shiny new toys to keep the fans satisfied. Many of the top teams have done just that in 2017, but not Flu: with money too tight to mention, coach Abel Braga has been forced to blood the kids and hope for the best.

And you know what? It's all going rather well. Gustavo Scarpa's talents were already well known, but a number of other youngsters have come to the fore: Wendel has made the midfield his own, while Marquinhos Calazans, Léo and Pedro have all broken into the first team. 

The most eye-catching contribution, though, has probably come from Richarlison, the exciting Brazil U20 forward who has just signed for Premier League side Watford on a five-year deal.



Richarlison grew up in the state of Espírito Santo and got his start in the game at the age of 10, when he joined a soccer school run by one Tião Borboleta – a nickname that, brilliantly, translates as Big Uncle Butterfly. No, me neither, but let's go with it.

He then joined his first club, Real Noroeste-ES, where it quickly became clear that he was a talent apart: he was the top scorer in the state U20 championships at the age of 16. It was little surprise when a bigger club – América Mineiro, the third biggest side in Belo Horizonte – invited him into their youth system in 2014.

The youngster broke into the senior side in mid-2015 and played a key role as the Rabbits won promotion, scoring nine goals in 24 Série B appearances. But his first taste of top-flight action would come at Fluminense, who stumped up R$9.5million (about £1.6million at the time) for his services.

Richarlison had an up-and-down first season at Laranjeiras: there were some sparky displays and a call-up to the Brazil U20 side, but injuries stopped him building up much of a rhythm. But things picked up with the arrival of veteran coach Abel Braga, who instantly took Richarlison under his wing and has made him a key part of his side in 2017.


Style and strengths

Richarlison, to borrow the words of Braga, is an "extremely modern" forward. Capable of leading the line but most comfortable in a wider role ("It suits my game and I score more goals when I play there"), he has the attributes to make any defender's life a living hell. The searing pace, supplemented by a rangy stride, is the first thing that strikes you, but he also has fine instincts in the final third: he can beat a man, sniffs out chances like a veteran and is a composed finisher.

Mentality is another factor. The forward seems to really thrive in clutch moments: he scored on debut for América, netted his first Flu goal in the clássico against Flamengo and has already scored in three derbies this year. "I like the big games, when the stadium is full," he has admitted.


Areas for improvement

His desire to help his side's cause is clear, but Richarlison can lack discipline when it comes to positioning – which is more of a problem when playing out wide. His crossing could also do with some work: his footwork often takes him to the byline but his delivery can be hit-and-miss.



Richarlison already had plenty of suitors before Watford swooped, both in Europe in Brazil. Inter, Sampdoria, Porto, Manchester United and Chelsea are among those to have been credited with interest in the past, while Série A champions Palmeiras sparked an almighty kerfuffle when they made a £9.8million bid for the youngster in June.

The player fancied the move to São Paulo, describing the offer as "too good to turn down – both for my professional progress and in financial terms". But Fluminense stood firm and Richarlison was forced into an awkward U-turn, crying in a meeting with Braga and begging forgiveness from the Flu fans. Ajax, meanwhile, had an £8million offer rebuffed in January.


What they say

Fluminense goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri: "He has huge potential and can get a lot better. He's got a great work ethic: not only does he help us in the final third, but also when it's time to defend."

Former strike partner Fred: "Richarlison is a player with lots of quality and strength. He has that desire to score; from the moment he arrived [at Fluminense], he had that hunger for goals. I can see a brilliant future for him."


Did you know?

Richarlison is naturally right-footed, but you'd struggle to establish that based on his goalscoring: eight of his 15 strikes for Flu this season have been scored with his left, with three penalties and a header accounting for majority of the remainder.

"I'm right-footed, but I've always shot with both, since I was a kid," he said recently. "It doesn't matter which foot you use, the important thing is to stick the ball in the net!" Quite right, and the more tools a striker has, the better.