Carlo Ancelotti knows a world-class player when he sees one and Richarlison is one of them
Everton boss – who has managed Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – believes Brazilian has it in him to reach the top
Carlo Ancelotti has spent a quarter of a century managing the world’s elite forwards. Few are better equipped to define world class than a man who has coached Cristiano Ronaldo and the Brazilian Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Andriy Shevchenko, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba. The Ancelotti alumni include a host of his fellow Italians, whether Gianfranco Zola, Alessandro del Piero or Filippo Inzaghi. Oh, and he played with Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Paolo Rossi.
Few have spent more time surrounded by such footballing greats. The temptation was to wonder if those days were behind him when he accepted the Everton job. Perhaps not, however. Ancelotti is not prone to hyperbole, but he is qualified to judge and he made a subtle distinction between his strike duo. “Richarlison is a top player,” he said. “Dominic Calvert-Lewin, I don’t know if he is a top player now but he can be one.”
Calvert-Lewin is the top scorer, and arguably the outstanding player, of his embryonic reign, his late goal in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace a sixth in nine games. Richarlison, however, is in a higher bracket. It does not yet make him the equal of a player who scored 112 goals in 102 games for Ancelotti’s Real Madrid but then comparisons with an all-time great are inherently unfair. His new manager does believe he is world class, though.
“I enjoyed working with Ronaldo because he was really professional, and he scored every single game,” Ancelotti said. “Richarlison is not yet at this level but I think every one of us enjoys having him at Everton because he is really a world-class player.”
Reports of an £85 million (Dh 402m) bid from Barcelona at the end of the transfer window were denied, but Richarlison’s performance against Palace illustrated the ability Ancelotti appreciates.
Every one of us enjoys having him at Everton because he is really a world-class player
His aerial ability was apparent in a header against the bar that led to Calvert-Lewin’s goal. His speed and skill on the break proved decisive for a second successive match: after surging from the half-way line to set up Theo Walcott’s winner at Watford, he powered away to score himself on Saturday.
It came at a pivotal moment, with Everton wobbling, and conformed to a trend: seven of his nine league goals have put his side ahead. He is no flat-track bully, delivering irrelevant goals, even if one challenge for a player whose personal best is 15 in a season is simply to score more. Ancelotti’s former forwards include plenty who have reached 30.
“He’s young, he has to improve, he has to play with more consistency but he shows fantastic quality at counter attack, as a striker,” said Ancelotti. “The third goal he jumped and headed the ball fantastically. It depends on him but he can be a world class player, it depends only on him.”
Everton top earners
The definition of the Brazilian as a striker was instructive. Under Marco Silva, Richarlison sometimes operated as a centre-forward. More often, however, he was used as a left or right winger. Ancelotti has been swift to settle on a 4-4-2 system and has identified Richarlison as a central figure. Director of football Marcel Brands has targeted another right winger in the transfer market, a sign Richarlison’s future does not lie there.
It is set to include next summer’s Copa America. The worry for Ancelotti is that it will incorporate the Olympics as well. Their greatest talent could be absent for the start of next season. “He is an Everton player,” Ancelotti said. “We have to respect the national team. We can talk with the national team to find the right solution for everyone.” But if he is world class, Richarlison may be wanted for a global tournament.
Published: February 10, 2020 08:28 AM