Neil Humphreys: Manchester United would love Everton
The rising Brazilian looks like a Red Devil in the making
Until yesterday, Brazil and Manchester United had the same problem.
A gap in their left side was as obvious as their lack of attacking dynamism.
They were two former giants living off past glories and in search of the kind of footballer that once defined them.
But the Selecao might have found him. And the Red Devils should sign him.
In Brazil, Everton Soares is known as the Little Onion, and while he hasn’t made anyone cry at the Copa America, he has succeeded where everyone else in the iconic jersey has mostly failed.
He’s got Brazilian bums off seats.
No one else had. From the pitch to the stands, lethargy reigned. Brazil were getting by, but that gaping hole remained.
There was no Neymar.
But then the 5-0 victory against Peru yesterday morning (Singapore time) happened and the chanting soon followed. It sounded like a coronation.
É Cebolinha, É Cebolinha, É Cebolinha.
The Little Onion, chanted over and over again, in a tribute to Everton, the kid that looks like a popular Brazilian cartoon character. Neymar was mostly forgotten. His spot was no longer vacant.
Everton started on the left wing of Brazil’s 4-2-3-1 formation for the first time at the Copa America. By the end of the match, he owned it. He was named the Man of the Match.
The diminutive winger was making only his ninth appearance for the Selecao. But he already has two goals at the tournament.
The first, against Bolivia in Brazil’s opener, arrived after his late introduction.
As a result, fans demanded his inclusion against Venezuela.
But Brazil coach Tite, never one to succumb to the demands of the masses, ignored the interest in Everton.
Karma seemed to kick Tite and the Selecao in return.
Brazil were utterly abject against Venezuela, stumbling to a 0-0 draw and missing all of the essential attributes that define Everton’s game: speed, confidence and swagger.
By the time of the decisive third game against Peru, Tite had little option but to throw the 23-year-old Gremio man alongside Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus.
In terms of elite experience and silverware tallies, there should have been an obvious imbalance of power among those three. And there was.
Everton left Coutinho and Jesus in the shade.
He didn’t just play.
He danced. He shot – and scored – from distance. He dribbled like a teething toddler.
He just couldn’t help himself.
A sense of expectation followed his every involvement. The volume rose whenever he took flight, as if the crowd instinctively understood.
This was the raw, rampaging football of the favela.
Brazil waited three Copa America games to witness anything resembling their samba brand and they got in one youngster making his first Copa America start.
Everton has been at Gremio for five years. Promising Brazilians are usually poached before their 23rd birthday.
But Everton was first linked to Manchester City as a teenager, until the speculation drifted away. Now United are on the radar, which makes more sense.
The Red Devils and the Selecao share a similar, exasperating narrative. Expensive, left-sided forwards continue to handicap their progress.
Neymar is injured and preoccupied with his next lucrative transfer. Alexis Sanchez is overpaid and preoccupied with any possible transfer.
The Chilean, rumoured to be earning a ludicrous £500,000 (S$862,000) a week, has scarcely resembled the hulking master of menace from Arsenal.
At Old Trafford, Sanchez has posed less physical threat than a wet paper bag in Manchester’s drizzle.
The Red Devils want Sanchez’s salary off the books, but finding a buyer is proving awkward.
Everton could fill the gap in the meantime.
He certainly speaks as he plays, confidently and directly. After scoring against Bolivia, he told British reporters that his swashbuckling antics would fit at European clubs like Manchester United.
He’s not wrong.
His habit of cutting inside from the left and slipping past hapless right-backs is a popular one at Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea (until Eden Hazard left).
But such an incisive winger has been conspicuous by its absence at United.
Everton’s price tag undoubtedly presents a problem. According to Brazilian media, his Gremio contract has a release clause of £71 million.
United are desperate, but not that desperate.
A financial compromise will be required on both sides.
But Everton’s impudent dribbling and endless taunting of defenders evoked warm memories of the kind of winger that once ruled Old Trafford, the kind needed if United are going to seriously challenge again.
A star was born in Brazil yesterday, but he could be made in Manchester.