The news comes as a considerable relief for Watford, who while optimistic about their chances of convincing the Football Association about the player’s merit, also had to prepare for the possibility of watching plans to augment their attack derailed for the second time this summer.
In June they failed with a second work permit application for Adalberto Penaranda, who had just captained Venezuela to the final of the Under-20 World Cup, where he missed a penalty as his team lost 1-0 to England. Paul Simpson, the coach of the England side, was among those to speak at the work permit hearing in support of the application but the player will instead spend the coming season on loan at Málaga.
Having already committed to completing the signing of Richarlison, a disappointing outcome at Tuesday’s hearing would have led to Watford having in excess of £20m of 20-year-old South American attacking talent on their books but unable to play, or even train, in England.
Instead the forward, who has recently been used as a left winger but is capable of playing across the front line, will bring much-needed pace and directness to their attack. He made 22 appearances for Fluminense last season and had started a combined 18 games this season in the league and the Copa Sudamericana, scoring seven times and claiming four assists. He was, overall, the top-scoring Under-20 player in Brazilian football this year.
He had been close to completing a move to Palmeiras in June, and after that to Ajax, but the Dutch side refused to match Watford’s offer of a sell-on clause. The Brazilian club, who owned 50% of his economic rights, are expecting an immediate downpayment of around £5.7m.
The presence of a Portuguese-speaking coach in Marco Silva was also instrumental in the player’s decision to move, while their Brazilian goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes is helping his new team-mate find a house. In March Abel Braga, the Fluminense coach, described Richarlison as “a complete player … who, if he keeps his feet on the ground, has everything it takes to be one of Fluminense’s greats.”
Richarlison did not qualify for an automatic work permit, having never played for Brazil’s senior side, though he does have some international experience. He scored on his debut for the Under-20s in a behind-closed-doors friendly against England at St George’s Park last September and has gone on to make 10 appearances at that level, starting eight of their nine matches at this year’s South American Under-20 championship in Ecuador.
Brazil finished that competition in fifth place and therefore failed to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup. This result was not as bad as it first appears: three of the four teams above them were just a single point better off, and Brazil conceded a 91st-minute goal to lose to Uruguay, a 94th-minute equaliser against Argentina, and two penalties to let slip a two-goal lead and draw with the hosts.
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