Richarlison’s transfer from Everton on July 1 was one of the biggest signs yet that Conte and Spurs’ managing director of football Fabio Paratici have begun to change the ethos within the club. Conte personally called Richarlison to ensure the Brazilian decided to join Tottenham amid interest from London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.
Richarlison said “I was on holiday in Brazil when I heard that Tottenham had made Everton an offer. I was happy because they are a huge team. Then it was all about the clubs negotiating a deal, and fortunately, everything went well. Antonio Conte called me during the negotiations and expressed how much he’d like to have me on board – that was vital for my decision. I know Chelsea made an offer, and I believe Arsenal also contacted Everton to ask about my situation, but Spurs came in and paid the fee, you know? It’s as simple as that. Everton had to sell some players to avoid a Financial Fair Play problem, and the negotiations were very brief, to be honest. I signed the contract during my holiday in the Pantanal.”
Conte has sung the praises of Richarlison from the moment he walked through the doors at Spurs for his workrate and quality and the player has responded with two goals and two assists in his first eight matches, becoming a popular addition within the club and also among the fanbase. For Conte, signing Richarlison represents a change in Tottenham’s attitude when it comes to their biggest signings. Spurs have previously only spent bigger money mostly on young players yet to reach their prime, targets that logic suggests have a better chance of holding their value or even increasing it. Of their most expensive signings, Tanguy Ndombele was 22 when he arrived, Davinson Sanchez 21, Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero both 23. All four players cost approaching £40m or more and the only aberration to that transfer profile came further back in 2016 with the then club record £30m purchase of a 27-year-old Moussa Sissoko.
Richarlison represents something else for Tottenham in comparison to their pre-Conte transfer strategy. The 25-year-old is ready made. He can still continue to develop but his prime is far closer on the road ahead. When he arrived at Hotspur Way in August he had already played 173 Premier League matches, scored 48 goals in the competition and provided 20 assists. The Brazilian knows the Premier League inside out and the step up to a bigger side was set to happen last summer, whoever ending up winning his signature. Last season Richarlison declared to the Everton fans that he would make sure their struggling team escaped relegation and he was true to his word with six goals and two assists in the final 10 games of the campaign. He has top level quality and his Champions League debut this month showed he is ready for the biggest of club competitions, heading home two goals in the second half against Marseille to grab the three points.
Richarlison’s arrival at Tottenham and his versatility means nobody can be complacent in the attacking roles. Dejan Kulusevski has made a huge impact since arriving in the Premier League but found himself on the bench for three consecutive matches this month. Even Son Heung-min was on the end of Conte’s rotation last weekend against Leicester and responded with a sublime hat-trick. With 13 matches to squeeze into six weeks or so, Harry Kane will also take his turn on the bench as Richarlison showed last season in filling in for the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin that he can play in the central striker role as a focal point for the team.
Antonio Conte said “We signed Richy because we tried to sign a player that was able to play in all three positions. For this reason we hadn’t had any doubts to sign him. We did this quickly because our idea and vision was very clear, especially for this reason. Richy is more of striker than Deki but at the same time he can play in Son’s position, in Harry Kane’s position and Deki’s position. For us this is very important because for sure when you make rotation, you don’t drop the quality.”
Paratici also has plenty of belief that convincing Tottenham to spend big money on the Brazilian was the right move.
Fabio Paratici said “We are so convinced by him so far, because this kind of style of football I think is perfect for us. Not just technically speaking, but about character. He’s a fighter, he has big energy, he can play in three positions in the forward line. He has great experience in the Premier League and in the national team in Brazil.”
The arrival of Yves Bissouma is another example of a big ready-made Spurs signing this summer for Conte, although the Mali international has taken slightly longer than Richarlison to be adapt to the Italian’s philosophy and demands. The 26-year-old has proved to be one of the Premier League’s best central midfielders in recent years and it’s only because he was in the final year of his contract that he cost £25m rather than more than double that figure.
Conte’s first summer transfer window brought plenty of experience in two 30-plus players in Ivan Perisic, 33, and Fraser Forster, 34, as well as 27-year-old Clement Lenglet. Add in the Premier League-ready Richarlison and Bissouma and the only youngsters were 21-year-old Djed Spence and 19-year-old Destiny Udogie. The latter has remained at Udinese on loan for the season to develop and Conte has ensured everyone who will listen is aware that the former was a club signing of the previous transfer profile and will require plenty of time.
Contrast that with last summer and the signings for Nuno Espirito Santo of 20-year-old Gil and 22-year-old Emerson Royal, Romero and 18-year-old Pape Matar Sarr, who stayed at Metz on loan. Goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini, 26, was by far the oldest new recruit. If anything Spurs had to correct that window with the arrival of the young but experienced Kulusevski and three-time Serie A winner Rodrigo Bentancur in January.
This is just the start for Tottenham’s transformation under Conte into a team that can compete with the biggest sides.
Antonio Conte said in August after the season had begun “If you compare to last season, we are more complete, but to reach other teams at the top level we need time, patience and transfer markets, at least two transfer markets to reach the same level”
Richarlison is one of the first building blocks in Conte’s new-look Tottenham and at a club burned by those Ndombele and Lo Celso deals, the head coach needs his own big signings to show just how different it can be when you spend the money on ready-made signings rather than prospects. Thankfully, the Brazilian seems only too happy to do so.
In total, the Brazil international could cost Tottenham £60m including add-ons and some pundits questioned why the north London outfit needed to spend that much when they already had Son Heung-min, Harry Kane and Dejan Kulusevski, not to mention Lucas Moura and the lesser spotted Bryan Gil on the bench. That thinking made little sense to Conte, a man used to building title-winning squads. For instance, few questioned why Liverpool bought Diogo Jota and then Luis Diaz when they already had one of Europe’s best strike trios at the time in Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino and if Spurs were to close the gap to the top teams they needed to act like one.
While keeping his fingers crossed that he steers clear of injury, Antonio Conte will have been keeping an eye on Richarlison during this international break with a certain sense of satisfaction. The 25-year-old netted twice for Brazil against Ghana on Friday to take his international record in 2022 to six goals in five matches with an assist in the only game he did not score in. Barring injury, the Tottenham Hotspur attacker will likely be heading to the World Cup with his country this winter.
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