RICHARLISON has brought some Brazilian flavour to Watford.
And when you’re 5,424 miles away from your family, it’s always good to have a taste of home.
Richarlison and countryman Heurelho Gomes were tucking into file de costella maturado.
That’s aged rib-eye steak, with rice and beans, with onions for Gomes – without for Richarlison – at the Comida Brasil food truck that does a roaring trade in St Albans.
SunSport’s hospitality comes at just the right time.
The lady who has cooked for him since he arrived in England — Giovanna, the wife of his agent Renato Velasco — is on a flying visit back to their homeland.
Winger Richarlison explained: “After I passed the trial at America Mineiro when I was 17, Renato’s wife went to Belo Horizonte to look after me and cook for me… and she still does.
“Her food is like what we had at the truck: rice and beans, beef, chicken. It was good, authentic.”
Keeper Gomes, who acts as mentor and translator for his compatriot, adds: “Normally he waits for me to eat at the club and then I take him back to eat Giovanna’s food.
“It’s very important to him.”
What is also crucial to Richarlison’s settling in is Gomes’ help and the warm welcome from the Watford family.
The 20-year-old said: “It’s great to have Heurelho here. He has helped me a lot — finding a house, a car, everything.
“To be honest, I knew pretty much nothing about Watford as a town or a club. But I feel so comfortable — the players, the staff, the board and the fans have made me so welcome.”
Richarlison appreciates other things about England after living and playing in the football hot-house of Rio de Janeiro for former club Fluminense.
Fans here are much more polite and shy about interrupting the boys from Brazil’s lunch to ask for photos.
Richarlison said: “Living in Rio is dangerous sometimes. If you lose a game in Brazil, you cannot walk about among the fans.
“Fans in Brazil cross the line. A few times at Fluminense, the fans would go to the airport after we had played away to shout at us.
“After home games, they would block the coach and make life very difficult. Here the fans respect you as a person. The way I live is totally different here.”
The food goes down well but my Flamengo shirt, a souvenir from the Rio Olympics, is taken as a challenge.
Richarlison shakes his head and holds up his mobile phone to show a video of his first goal for Fluminense in June 2016 — a winner in the Maracana against Flamengo in Brazilian football’s most famous derby.
Richarlison joined Watford for £13million during the summer.
May 10, 1997: Born in Nova Venecia, Brazil.
December 2014: Leaves Real Noroeste for the academy at America, a club in the city of Belo Horizonte competing in the second tier of the national league.
August 2015: Signs deal with Nike as a still relatively unknown 18 year old.
October 2015: Representative Renato Velasco is contacted by super-agent Giuliano Bertolucci, who has previously taken David Luiz, Ramires and other players to Europe.
December 2015: Joins Rio giants Fluminense for about £2m. Reports in Brazil suggest Bertolucci assisted the club in the transaction.
June 2016: After a period of injury, scores first goal for Fluminense, the winner in the Fla-Flu derby against bitter rivals Flamengo.
January 2017: Fluminense turn down a bid of about £8m from Ajax. Brazil flop overall at the Under-20 championships in South America but Richarlison’s performances attract more European attention.
June 2017: Asks to be left out of squad for game against Palmeiras after move to Brazilian rivals falls through. Later explains to fans on social media that he was carrying an injury.
Also emerges that Velasco is in dispute with former business partner Luciano Martins over ownership of 50 per cent of the player’s economic rights.
August 2017: Amid claims that Bertolucci and Velasco are owed money by Fluminense, Richarlison is all set for a move to Ajax before Watford boss Marco Silva rings him and persuade him to join the Hornets for £11.2m. Fluminense have a 10 per cent sell-on clause. Despite not having played for the senior Brazil team, the player receives a UK work permit.
America Mineiro 2015 Apps 24, goals 9
Fluminense 2016-17 Apps 67, goals 19
Watford 2017- Apps 7, goals 3
Brazil U20 Apps 10, goals
Yet, just four years ago, he did not have a proper pair of boots.
The oldest of five children born to a stonemason and cleaner, he grew up in Nova Venecia in the south-eastern state of Espirito Santo — which has fantastic beaches but is better known for producing steel and petroleum than footballers.
Richarlison said: “My dad knew about a player called Richarlison and that’s why he called me that.
“When I was seven my dad bought ten balls for me, not because he could afford to do it but because he wanted me to be a good footballer.
“Most of the time my friends and I played on the street, make goals with our sandals. It was like a favela, a poor area.
“I used to watch the Premier League on my uncle’s TV. I was in love with what I was seeing — the speed of the game and the way it never stopped. I said, ‘I’m going to play there one day’.”
That dream seemed unlikely to be fulfilled when, at 16, Richarlison was still in the youth team at local club Real Noroeste until the intervention of businessman Velasco changed his life.
Richarlison added: “Renato was the first one that gave me an opportunity. In the first week he gave me a pair of football boots because before that I had been playing with odd ones.
“He told me, ‘I’m going to help you because you have quality’.”
That quality took Richarlison to America Mineiro in Brazil’s second tier in December 2014 and to Fluminense a year later.
In August, a phone call from new Watford boss Marco Silva persuaded Richarlison to snub Ajax at the 11th hour and join the Hornets instead.
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Richarlison’s three goals in seven games make him one of the surprises of the season so far.
But not to himself.
He said: “I am not surprised because everything in my life has changed so fast.
“From the day I started to play for America, then Fluminense, now in the Premier League — everything has come at the right time.”
Even the visit to the Brazilian food truck.