The nights close in and autumn turns to winter, and Richarlison is braced to knuckle down and turn another promising start to the season into something more tangible.
‘We want to take Everton into Europe and I hope we do it this season,’ he tells Sportsmail as the Premier League returns after the international break.
‘Our fans and the club deserve it. Our challenge this year is to have a bit more consistency than last season.’
Everton forward Richarlison is keen to deliver European football to fans this season
‘Our challenge this year is to have a bit more consistency than last season,’ he told Sportsmail
When Richarlison first arrived in English football at Watford, the culture shock and drastic change of climate made it hard for him to settle. He was grateful for help from Heurelho Gomes, goalkeeper and a fellow Brazilian, to help him through the tough start.
‘He was like an older brother,’ says Richarlison. ‘I was only eating burgers and soda and I lost five kilos. My city in Brazil is very hot and the sun shines all the time. Then I got here and it was cold. There is no sun for most of the year, then came the hard winter.
‘I couldn’t feel my feet when I was going to training or games — they were frozen. That was the worst part. But now I feel like I’m at home.’
Richarlison was born and raised in Nova Venecia, 500 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. His family worked on coffee plantations and, as a teenager, he would accompany his grandfather to harvest the crop.
Richarlison admitted to struggling to adapt to life in England when he joined Watford
‘I couldn’t feel my feet when I was going to training or games — they were frozen,’ he recalled
It was also a childhood where he witnessed poverty and crime, in a neighbourhood where drugs and violence were rife and football represented a chance to escape.
‘My father Antonio and my uncle Elton told me to play football and stay away from bad things,’ says Richarlison. ‘I escaped from a reality that some friends couldn’t.’
Once, at the age of 14, he found a gun aimed at his head following a game of football with his friends in a notorious neighbourhood.
‘Today, it is easier to talk about it but I was very scared at the time. I thought I was going to die,’ he recalls. ‘We were leaving the field and some guys thought we were drug dealers selling in their area.
‘I told them we were on our way home. I was lucky because I remained calm. That made me want to change things, to give my family better conditions.’
Like Marcus Rashford in the UK, Richarlison has become a powerful campaigner in Brazil.
The £50m forward also reflected on his difficult upbringing in Nova Venecia, Brazil
He recalled having a gun pointed at his head after playing football in a rough neighbourhood
At 24, he has 4.3million Instagram followers and recently posted a photograph of himself receiving his second coronavirus jab, in the hope it would inspire others to get vaccinated.
Richarlison shared a picture of himself getting his second Covid-19 vaccine this week (above)
Brazil has been badly hit by the pandemic and, when it broke out last year, he responded by donating 500 food parcels to homes in Nova Venecia.
He also funded a new football pitch for Nova Venecia FC, where he is an official club ambassador, built it in the poorest part of the city and named it after his grandfather Armindo Francisco da Silva, with whom he once harvested coffee beans and who has now passed away.
‘Brazil has a lot of social injustice,’ Richarlison says. ‘Few people earn a lot and millions are hungry, unprotected. I can’t normalise it. I have great visibility, so it became a responsibility to talk about this. When I got to the Brazilian squad, I chose to give the best message possible.’
Meanwhile, his career is flourishing. Richarlison was part of the Brazil squad for the Copa America and then the Olympic Games, reaching the final of the former and winning gold in the latter, where he finished as top scorer.
‘A happy ending,’ he says. ‘It was exhausting to play so many games, but I want to be in the national team whenever it’s possible. The Olympics have always been a dream for me.
Richarlison became an ambassador at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) in an unique engagement to raise funds through a social media campaign called ‘Tabelinha de Craques’
‘I didn’t want to miss this chance. Everton were really kind to let me play in Tokyo.’
The gesture was appreciated by Brazil and they reciprocated by releasing Richarlison from the squad last month when a row was raging about international call-ups in red-list countries.
‘The World Cup is a dream,’ he says. ‘Defending my country against the best teams in the world is something I always wanted.
‘I’ve been in all (Brazil coach) Tite’s squads since the World Cup in Russia, with the exception of the last two due to the quarantine problem and now a knee injury.
‘But I want to come back even stronger after the recovery period, so that I can be in the squad and continue towards the World Cup.’
The Brazilian praised former Everton coach Carlo Ancelotti for helping him evolve as a player
He said current boss Rafa Benitez has similar ideas to Ancelotti and is ‘very demanding’
Richarlison will not be ready to face West Ham at Goodison Park tomorrow but will soon be back in Everton blue to continue the progress made under Carlo Ancelotti and Rafa Benitez.
‘Ancelotti is a guy I’m so grateful for,’ he says. ‘He made me evolve a lot as a player and gave me a lot of off-field tips too, very valuable advice I will carry with me for a lifetime. He is extremely smart, with very well-defined ideas.
‘Benitez follows the same line as Ancelotti. He knows very well what he wants from each player, is very demanding, and tries to get the best out of each one of us.’