The intent at Spurs has only been getting stronger as the transfer window continues. First Ivan Perisic arrives on a free, then the club shell out £25million on Yves Bissouma, and on Friday they completed the £60m statement signing of Richarlison from Everton.
The Brazilian was being chased by several big clubs, notably Chelsea, but Tottenham have won the race. His attacking credentials are not in doubt, but could it be that Spurs signed him for his other, less savoury skills?
Tottenham have completed the £60million signing of Brazil forward Richarlison from Everton
The controversial and combative attacker could bring his darks arts to good use at Tottenham
Richarlison has long been labelled as a master of football’s dark arts, the sort of behaviour that gets you put in the category of player that you love if he is in your team, and you hate if he isn’t.
These are the kind of things pundits call ‘gamesmanship’ when being polite, and cheating when they’re not.
Ex-Spurs boss Jose Mourinho famously damned his former charges as being ‘too nice’ to challenge for major honours.
Whether gamesmanship or cheating, Richarlison is famed for being a master of the dark arts
Richarlison has undoubtedly exhibited a nasty side in the past, a facet that can sometimes enhance his game. Conte is known for the fiery way in which he drives his teams to greatness.
Could this be a match made in heaven, or a volcanic clash doomed to spill over?
Sportsmail takes a look at Richarlison best and worst moments practising football’s dark arts.
CLASHING WITH PLAYERS… AND HIS OWN TEAM-MATES!
One of the first things Richarlison will need to address on arriving at Spurs training is burying the hatchet with new team-mate Cristian Romero.
The pair have clashed infamously over the past year, both on Premier League and international duty, with things getting quite nasty at times.
It began with the controversy around Romero and three other Argentina internationals being banned from playing in a World Cup qualifier against Brazil in September by the country’s health agency ANVISA for breaching Covid regulations.
Richarlison has some making up to do with new Tottenham team-mate Christian Romero
The pair clashed several times last season in the Premier League and on international duty
In response, Richarlison tweeted mischievously: ‘ANVISA 1-0 Argentina’, which left Romero and others less than impressed.
Following this, Richarlison then left Romero crumpled on the pitch in their first league clash during Tottenham and Everton’s 0-0 draw in November.
Both players were eventually booked in the match for clashing heatedly, with Richarlison deploying some of his trademark rolling around on the floor and enraging Romero and Spurs players further.
Richarlison and Vinicius Jr engaged in a training ground exchange on Brazil duty back in June
Romero then got his own back much later in the season. During Spurs’ 5-0 demolition of the Toffees in March, the Argentinian flew into a reckless challenge on Richarlison, leaving the Brazilian in genuine agony and picking up a generous yellow card in the process.
Romero is far from the only player Richarlison has had an issue with. He has also clashed with his own countrymen.
In June he was caught up in a training ground scrap with Vinicius Jr while on international duty with Brazil, with Neymar having to separate the pair. More evidence of a short temper.
But if Conte can get Richarlison and Romero singing from the same hymn sheet next season, then both their aggressive temperaments could be an asset in making Spurs a more streetwise side.
DEFENDING THE CLUB’S HONOUR
Richarlison (left) hit out at Jamie Carragher on Twitter after Everton avoided being relegated
For all his Machiavellian magic on the pitch, Richarlison has also proven he’s not short of a fiery word or two off it, as his late night takedown of Jamie Carragher showed.
The Brazilian took exception to comments from the ex-Liverpool man about the dark arts he employs.
‘Every Everton game I do he goes down three or four times like he’s got a big injury then just gets up! It’s not about getting a penalty or a foul but pretending he’s hurt when he’s not,’ Carragher tweeted.
After helping Everton seal Premier League survival in a dramatic comeback win over Crystal Palace, Richarlison blasted Carragher on Twitter, writing ‘I don’t respect you’.
Maybe it’s petty, maybe not. But Richarlison’s lack of fear in calling out his doubters shows a player unafraid of hitting back, and perhaps showing the backbone that many say Spurs have lacked.
Moreover, Richarlison has proven he has the stomach for the tough times, scoring six goals in Everton’s last nine games to help them finish 16th and avoid the drop. That degree of grit is surely music to Conte’s ears.
With six goals in nine games aiding Everton, Richarlison proved he stands up at crucial times
THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF
However, the Carragher incident also highlighted the limitations of Richarlison’s tactics, as he was roundly criticised for trying to waste time in Everton’s 2-0 loss to Liverpool in April.
Such was the clamour that Dominos Pizza even posted a now-deleted tweet mocking the Brazilian’s antics in the Merseyside derby.
This is the negative part of Richarlison’s ploy, that he can get so caught up in his gamesmanship that he detracts from his effectiveness for the team.
Richarlison was on the floor against Liverpool, a clash in which he was blasted for time-wasting
His temper also got the better of him in the game, as this tackle on Jordan Henderson showed
In fact, former manager Marco Silva even called out the Brazilian over his behaviour.
‘Don’t fall down, even if it looks in many, many moments that the decisions are not fair with him,’ Silva told EvertonTV in 2019.
‘What I am saying to Richarlison, and our staff as well, is for him to keep standing as much as he can and in the right moments the referee will be fair with him because we feel that it is not so fair.’
Richarlison argued with Dominic Calvert-Lewin over taking a penalty against Brighton
The Brazilian has also been known to ruffle the feathers of his own team-mates with his single-minded nature.
The clearest example of this was when Richarlison refused to give the ball to fellow team-mate Dominic Calvert-Lewin and insisted he would take a penalty in Everton’s 2-0 win over Brighton.
Calvert-Lewin eventually won the debate but it was an unedifying scene, with Richarlison giving the impression of putting his own wishes above the team’s tactics of having their No 1 striker take penalties.
Perhaps the best example of Richarlison’s casual relationship with football’s rules was when he threw a flare back into the crowd after scoring the winner in Everton’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea in May.
Richarlison approached home fans with a flare as they celebrated his winner against Chelsea
Thrown onto the pitch by delirious fans, the Brazilian seemed to get carried away in the moment, picking up the flare and hurling it back into the stands.
To compound matters, Richarlison published a tweet showing him throwing the flare on the day the news broke that he had been charged by the FA for improper conduct.
Everton defended their star man, claiming he was trying to throw it out of the ground. But the whole incident is a microcosm of the type of controversy that just seems to follow Richarlison around.
Should Richarlison’s behaviour start costing Spurs, Antonio Conte will certainly let him know
The cheating or time-wasting labels have followed Richarlison ever since he first came to the Premier League as a rising star at Watford.
Back in 2017, Piers Morgan called him out for allegedly diving in a match against Arsenal.
Conte is all about using every bit of a team’s experience, skill and determination to get a win. But if Richarlison starts costing Spurs with his over-exaggeration or fiery temper, you can be sure the Italian will be ready with the hairdryer.