Neymar’s injury meant there was a chance for one of the Brazil squad to steal the limelight and make themselves a national hero at the Copa America.
Philippe Coutinho seemed destined to grab the opportunity with both hands. A peripheral figure at Barcelona, this was his chance to show the world he could be the man. Roberto Firmino, not a guaranteed starter under Tite, was given greater responsibility, too. And Gabriel Jesus could’ve made this tournament his own.
Yet it was the fourth musketeer, Everton Soares who eventually stepped into Neymar’s expensive shoes and delivered as Brazil won their first Copa America in over a decade.
Prior to this competition, the 23-year-old Grêmio attacker had failed to get off the mark for his country in the six matches he’d featured in for the Seleção.
Many expected him to simply make up the numbers in the squad, with Richarlison and Willian the men tipped to replace Neymar in the starting XI.
But Everton netted against Bolivia in the group stage despite being afforded a ten-minute cameo. He then managed close to twenty minutes as Tite’s men drew 0-0 with Venezuela. His first start in the competition came in the 5-0 demolition of Peru; Everton scored and assisted as Brazil sent out a message to their rivals.
The winger then began all three of the knockout matches, including the fiery semi-final clash against Argentina. In the final, he opened the scoring against Peru and was named man-of-the-match. The 23-year-old also claimed the Golden Boot award.
Now, the Grêmio star is one of the most talked about players in world football and the Brazilian Serie A side can expect to be fielding a number of calls with Europe’s elite circling.
But is he another El Hadji Diouf, a player who builds a career off the back of a successful international tournament despite being nothing more than average? Or did he just need this Copa America tournament to showcase his talents and reach a greater audience?
Everton’s performances for Grêmio have been consistent over recent seasons but he’s come into his own in the last 18 months.
In 2016 he netted eight times in all competitions and followed it up the following year with 12 goals.
He then scored 17 in 2018 and is already on nine goals from just 19 appearances in 2019 If all goes as planned, he’ll have bettered his goal return for four years straight.
Usually deployed on the left of the attack, Everton is a stereotypical inside forward who always attempts to cut inside onto his favoured right foot. However, he is strong on his left, too, and this unpredictability gives him an edge.
He’s a clinical finisher and often lashes the ball into the back of the net. The majority of his goals come from inside the area (0.49 per 90 when looking at data from 2018/19) but he is capable of scoring from distance. Another asset that adds to his wildcard capabilities.
Everton has averaged 0.54 goals over the past season but has created 0.25 big chances per 90, too. He’s failed to register an assist but that’s more the fault of his teammates.
He is a volume player, one who attempts 3.48 shots per 90 and 7.47 dribbles. These numbers are even more impressive when you consider he’s not playing for a dominant side. A player averaging over three shots is usually one in a top team, Grêmio currently find themselves in eleventh with eleven points from nine matches, 14 off leaders Palmeiras.
Now, the big question is whether 23-year-old could continue at this level if he played for a side with a different style. Some teams prefer to keep the ball and work it into dangerous positions before shooting whereas 40 per cent of Everton’s shots come from outside the penalty area.
If his shot volume drops, will he be as effective? It’s something to consider. However, there is a clear sign that he will always be a goal threat, no matter the side he is in.
Everton has averaged close to six touches in the area per 90, a huge number and shows he’s comfortable in these areas. For context, Premier League Golden Boot winner Sadio Mané averaged 5.98 – and that’s his highest average since his move to England. It’s a good trait to have.
He is dispossessed a fair amount of times (2.48) which may work against him in a possession-based side. But this is likely because of the sheer volume of dribbles he attempts. It isn’t something that can’t be worked on.
Everton is defensively diligent, too, winning possession back on 3.13 occasions in the middle third on a per 90 basis. Added to the fact he’s robust, often riding challenges and holding off opponents, and you’ve got a player who seems ideal for the rigours of the Premier League.
Everton appears to be the real deal and is the ideal project for a manager looking to craft a wide forward into the next Mohamed Salah or Raheem Sterling.