Watford must enjoy Marco Silva and Richarlison while they last
Looking back, Hull City would have struggled to keep hold of Marco Silva even if they had survived relegation in May. Once it was confirmed with defeat at Crystal Palace, any slim chance the suave, sophisticated Portuguese coach would stay evaporated.
It became a matter of which club he would choose. Palace were interested, as were Southampton; in the end, he opted for Watford. Any of these would have been a more attractive choice than staying at the KCOM Stadium, even in the top flight.
Silva will have known this, too, underneath the calming, cool exterior. He was always respectful to the Tigers, the club who gave him the first crack at his Premier League dream, insisting he would decide his future at the end of the season.
The reality is, though, he has a burning desire to get to the top as quickly as possible, just like one of his managerial idols, Jose Mourinho. Completing Hull’s survival mission would have shown the world his talent, which he did anyway, but there was always a ceiling for him on Humberside, despite his 18-month contract.
Silva: Poch mark II?
Amongst the cesspool of doubt and negativity, which met his appointment in January, Silva remained confident he and his staff would prove themselves and their methods, all in aid of a greater goal. There are clear similarities between him and Mauricio Pochettino, who never fully committed himself at Southampton and waited for a big opportunity, which appeared in 2014 in the shape of Tottenham Hotspur.
The biggest compliment Silva can be paid is that he has turned a soap opera club into arguably the best team outside of the ‘big six’ in the top flight right now. Watford have not been in direct danger of relegation since they returned to the Premier League in 2015, but neither have they kept a manager for more than a season. Constant reports of player unrest and clear drops off towards the end of a season paint a picture, too.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Silva can avoid a similar fate, but his transformation of the Hornets has been remarkable. So remarkable, in fact, that questions over his future are already returning. Everton made an approach for his services, only for Watford to reject it; Silva has remained coy on his future, only focussing on the job in hand but not ruling anything out, like a man who harbours much bigger ambitions. He hasn’t exactly got his feet under the carpet.
Everton fans turned against Ronald Koeman, their previous manager, because of his poor results. But another main criticism was that he never had both eyes on Goodison Park; links with the Barcelona job were never far away on the good days and Koeman couldn’t resist the idea of sitting in the Camp Nou dugout. While that is understandable, the first ambition has to be growing the team. Silva is trying to climb the ladder as fast as he can; he won’t see Everton as his destination.
Richarlison is Watford’s shining light
That ruthless streak has served him well; he has won a league and two cups in Portugal and Greece, all by the age of 40. His tactical approach promises freedom in attack, but Watford have barely been exposed in defence, excluding a home game with Manchester City and an away clash with Chelsea, which they looked like winning at one stage.
They did beat Arsenal and if his Vicarage Road reign is only going to last a few months, then he has brought a lot to the table; Richarlison, the Brazilian under-20 international, is perhaps the best part of his short legacy. Exciting, raw and destined for big things, the young playmaker, snatched from Fluminense and the jaws of trouble in his homeland, is a player very much in Silva’s image.
It was he who pulled the strings to get him, too, and his powers of persuasion stopped a move to Dutch giants Ajax.
There are few better places for a young player than Amsterdam judging by the history books, but both Silva and Richarlison have been completely vindicated by their decision to go ahead with the deal. His goal in Sunday’s 2-0 win over West Ham was the 20-year-old’s fifth in just 12 league games; he is dazzling on the big stage, and although calls for an international call up for the World Cup may be premature, they only serve to show his impact.
For all his ambition and desire to better himself, not to mention his lack of fear of taking risks in his career, Silva has done everything right. He has become the poster boy for the exciting, young coach from abroad, but despite the sniggers from small-minded pundits, he has worked his way up in both England and his homeland.
That is more than the man many of those most critical think deserves a chance, Ryan Giggs, ever done. Yet the former Manchester United winger puts his hat in every top-flight ring available.
Richarlison is the heartbeat of Silva’s Watford. He’s not perfect, missing those golden opportunities while 2-1 up at Stamford Bridge showed as much, but neither are the team or the manager. Three successive defeats bridged the gap between wins over Arsenal and West Ham, but the team is learning and growing.
Both the man in the dugout and the youngster on the pitch look like they could outgrow their surroundings soon; Watford must savour every moment before they do.