Brazil’s Richarlison Explains Why He Tattooed His Own Face on His Back
“Is it OK if I keep my camera off for now?” asks Richarlison, the star striker for Brazil and Tottenham Hotspur, over Zoom through his Portuguese translator. “I’m just getting my tattoo touched up.”
The tattoo in question? A mammoth back piece starring a trio of Brazilian footballers, past and present: Ronaldo on the left, Neymar on the right, and Richarlison himself staring sternly into the distance between them. “Ronaldo was my hero when I first started football,” he explains. “Neymar is of my generation, but a few years ahead of me—I wanted to play like him and have the same hair. And then I added myself, because I’m inspired by myself, too.”
Self-confidence? Check. And anyone who watched Richarlison absolutely shred the competition in Qatar last year knows his confidence is well earned. At his first World Cup, the 25-year-old racked up five sensational goals in six games, including the official Goal of the Tournament: an acrobatic, cinematic, scissor-kicked screamer against Serbia.
Virtually overnight, those performances made Richarlison a household name the world over—enough so that luxury luggage purveyor TUMI saw fit to appoint him the face of its brand in 2023. With his first campaign for the label launching this week, GQ caught up with Richarlison to talk Brazil’s staggering World Cup run, what it’s like playing alongside Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min at Spurs, and his absolute essentials for life on the road.
Your teammate Son Heung-Min is a fellow TUMI ambassador, and it sometimes feels like the two of you are competing for who can have the most number of global campaigns. Do you ever trade modeling tips in the locker room?
We tease each other a lot. Fashion [shoots] are very difficult, but we like to play around a lot and make fun of each other and ourselves and not take it all too seriously.
When you’re heading out on the road, what’s your packing style?
I’m very practical. I travel with a backpack. I take two sets of clothes, a couple of iPads to keep myself entertained, and my cosmetic kit with all my skincare and fragrances. I try to keep things as light as possible.
You mentioned your skincare routine. Do you feel like looking and feeling your best before a match helps you perform better on the pitch?
Yes, actually, but I care more about my hair than my skin. I get a haircut before every single match, because I think it’s good luck.
You said recently that Brazil’s World Cup exit felt as painful as losing a family member. I know the wound probably still feels fresh, but a few months on, how do you reflect on your time in Qatar last year?
It’s been a while since Qatar, so I do feel better now. But anytime I see anything about the World Cup on TV or social media, I feel that pain of losing all over again. At the same time, though, I’m young. I still have at least two more World Cups ahead of me. So I’m trying my best to stay focused on the present—preparing for the rest of the season with Tottenham, as well as those future World Cups, and not dwell too much on the past.
Did the experience of your first World Cup change you at all? What were the biggest lessons you took away from the tournament, and how will you prepare differently for the next go-round?
When I went to Italy [for Brazil’s World Cup training camp in November], Casemiro told me how difficult it is to play in a World Cup—how much pressure there was going to be—and I tried to prepare myself psychologically and physically as much as possible. But the experience of actually being there was bigger and more electric than I could’ve ever imagined. Now that I’ve been through it once, I’m even more eager to train more, gain more experience, get better, and win as many titles as I can before the next World Cup. That’s my focus right now.
You scored the Goal of the Tournament—an absolutely outrageous bicycle kick. What goes through your mind in a moment like that?
It was an out-of-body experience. I still don’t believe it was actually me who scored that goal, but it feels amazing after the fact. A lot of people learned who I was because of it—it’s the most important goal of my career.
You arrived at Spurs this year—it’s a club with bigger ambitions than Everton, but there’s also more competition for playing time in the form of Harry Kane and Son. What has that challenge been like for you, and what have you learned from teaming up with forwards of their caliber?
Competition for places at Tottenham is very tough, and I’m injured right now, so it hasn’t been easy for me. I’m really eager to get through this injury and get back into the squad again to help as much as I can.
As far as playing with Kane and Son—they’re big players, of course, but they’ve also been good friends to me, especially when I first joined the team. There’s not one specific lesson I could say I’ve learned from them—we’re all learning a lot from each other all the time.
How are you feeling heading into the second half of the season, and what are you aiming to accomplish both as a team and individually?
We’ve got a lot of games coming up. We’re still in the FA Cup, still in the Champions League. We’ve got a great team, a great coach, and we’re prepared to go out there and get big results. I’m very, very optimistic about the rest of the season.
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