Everton’s search to find another winger to compliment Richarlison has become something of a priority in recent months.
The 22-year-old’s debut campaign at Goodison Park saw him net 14 goals across all competitions and impress so much that he’s now earned a starting spot in Brazil’s Copa America squad, playing 84 minutes of their opening game against Bolivia.
Richarlison converted nine of his 17 big chances in the Premier League in 2018-19 at a rate of 52.94%. Without his goalscoring exploits, a recovered season which ended in optimism for Marco Silva could easily have fizzled out to the sound of supporter apathy.
However, Everton only found solace and balance when they ditched Theo Walcott and deployed Bernard on the left wing, pushing Richarlison to the right. Walcott scored just three of his 11 big chances at a terrible rate of 27.27%, giving us all a reminder of why he’s been one of the Premier League’s most frustrating players over the past decade. Ademola Lookman, meanwhile, started just three league games all season and doesn’t seem to be in Silva’s plans.
While Bernard has helped Everton become a much more stylish side, he’s a creator, not a goalscorer. The Toffees need that unpredictable goal threat Richarlison brings on both wings. Enter David Neres.
The similarities between the Ajax man and Richarlison are actually quite striking. The pair are born just one week apart, are representing the Seleção after breakout club seasons and are capable of operating on either flank.
Richarlison and David Neres ? pic.twitter.com/WBlcfGKZP0
— Brasil Football ?? (@BrasilEdition) June 17, 2019
Reports linking Neres with Everton have been bubbling under the surface for some time now and it would appear director of football Marcel Brands has put agent Richarlison on the case of his £40m target.
“Yeah, I read something about that,” Richarlison told the Liverpool Echo when asked about the Neres speculation. “I’ve spoken to him about it already. I told him the doors are open for him there, and that he could help us a lot.
“I hope he comes. He’d be very welcome there. I’ve known him since we played together for Brazil’s U20 side, and he’s a guy I get along with really well. Hopefully I’ll see him there.”
Richarlison’s nasty streak has helped him deal with the rough and tumble of the Premier League – as well as endear him further to the Everton fanbase – and while Neres is a much more slight figure, his compatriot feels he’ll have no problem slotting into Silva’s side.
“Definitely,” Richarlison responded when asked if Neres is cut out for English football. “He’s a player who really attacks defenders and runs at his marker, so he’s got the right profile. With me and Bernard there, it would work really well.”
It took Bernard a number of months to truly adjust to the physical demands of the Premier League but once he did, we saw a playmaker of international and Champions League standard – from Everton’s 3-0 away win at Cardiff in late February until the end of the season, no player in Silva’s squad completed more dribbles than Bernard’s 12. These Brazilians have given Everton a spice which seemed a world away in the previous season under Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce.
Of course, it was the Champions League in which Neres truly announced himself, attempting the second-highest number of dribbles (39) of any Ajax player and notching two goals and two assists as the Amsterdam giants reached the semi-finals in style. Neres was also fouled more than any other Ajax player in the final third (6) during the competition, making him a defender’s nightmare.
“Of course the Premier League interests me. It’s the best league in the world, and I’ve always wanted to play there. But I leave all that in God’s hands.”
If they had their way, Everton fans would look to pluck any one of Ajax’s Champions League heroes: Donny van de Beek’s creative influence from midfield, Hakim Ziyech’s ethereal movement or Nicolas Tagliafico’s robust yet cultured style of defending.
But Everton already have Gylfi Sigurdsson pulling the strings, Richarlison and Bernard drifting from their positions into space and Lucas Digne doing pretty much everything you’d ever want from a Leighton Baines replacement – there’s a firm argument the Frenchman is second only to Andy Robertson among Premier League left-backs.
What they really need is another ace on the wing, someone to keep defenders guessing. Neres scored eight Eredivisie goals in just 20 starts last season and, just like Richarlison, spread his playing time across both flanks.
Both samba stars could switch sides at will, bamboozling defenders who simply won’t know whether to show them inside and risk a shot on goal or take them to the byline and try to stop a cross. A hesitant defender is a beaten defender and beating full-backs is in Richarlison and Neres’ playbook.
Signing Neres wouldn’t be the final piece in the puzzle as Silva looks to mastermind Everton’s assault on the Premier League’s top six but it would go a long way. The Toffees’ 46 goals conceded was only bettered by the division’s top four last season but they only finished eighth in terms of goals scored with 54, two behind Bournemouth.