You’ve probably seen the video by now. You know the sort of accounts: called something like ‘Footy Humour’ and announcing their subject with capital letters, exclamation marks and liberal emojis. ‘Richarlison just ended David Neres' career in Brazil training,’ this one proclaims with the requisite Brazil flag emoji, The Scream emoji and the crying laughing emoji.
The video itself shows Everton player Richarlison putting the ball through the legs of David Neres, a fellow member of the seleção who also plies his trade in Europe—for Ajax.
Ironically enough, these two players are involved in a more existential battle to ‘end’ one another. As things stand, they are both battling it out over the same position in the starting XI of the Brazil National Team. With Neymar back in the side, they’ll both have their eyes on the right-hand side of the front three in Tite’s 4-3-3.
The two Brazilians share more than just positional similarity. Both 22 years old, they also arrived in Europe in the same transfer window having done a stint in the Brasileirão: Neres at São Paulo—although he only picked up a handful of games before moving to the Netherlands—and Richarlison at América Mineiro and Fluminense.
Both have also enjoyed success in their European escapades. Richarlison burst onto the scene after arriving at Watford following a £11.2 million ($14.6m) transfer in the summer of 2017, scoring five goals and helping Marco Silva to tenth place in the Premier League before the Portuguese manager left his post in January 2018.
So impressed was Silva with the youngster that he made getting his signature his target when he moved to Everton the next season - for a significantly higher price, this time. Everton shelled out £35.3 million ($46.2m). The faith was immediately paid off; Richarlison scoring a brace on his debut and adding 15 more in the time since.
David Neres has had similar successes in his time in the Netherlands. Although he has proved to be a success in the Eredivisie, the highlight of his career so far came in the Champions League run that Ajax made in 2018/19 iteration of the competition, where they only narrowly missed out on a place in the final after a late goal from Lucas Moura.
Both Neres and Richarlison are stylistically similar. Both are direct players who like to get into the box and offer a threat on goal. Their career goals per game ratios are remarkably similar: Neres pips his compatriot, scoring 0.3 goals per game to Richarlison’s 0.28.
These upcoming friendlies against Colombia and Peru, then, could see the imminent national team careers of either Richarlison or Neres ‘ended’. With Tite treating these fixtures as a chance to finalise his team before the 2022 World Cup, their performances could be the difference between a firm starting place or a stint on the bench, waiting for their time to come.
Neither player will relish the thought of having to impress in the short term. For Brazil, though, it is a nice problem to have.