Why Richarlison refuses to shake Michail Antonio’s hand.
One of Richarlison’s coaches at Fluminense, Abel Braga, summed it up best when he described his former player as “the kind of person who seems to have been designed differently by the big guy up in the sky.”
Brazil and Tottenham Hotspur’s number nine is loved and loathed with equal vigour. Yet, whatever stance you take on the polarising figure, most have an opinion. Richarlison, invariably, also has an opinion on the discourse which his actions produce.
Former Liverpool defender and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher has felt the brunt of Richarlison’s backlash in the past, trading jabs with the former Everton forward via social media and in the flesh.
Last season, the outspoken West Ham United striker Michail Antonio joined the Richarlison debate, with the fallout spilling across into the 2023/24 campaign.
In news that will torment Mark Hughes, Richarlison and Antonio are expected to pointedly avoid shaking hands when Tottenham and West Ham meet this term. But how did it get to this?
Richarlison’s dramatic equaliser and his familiar disrobed celebration against Liverpool last May caught Antonio’s interest.
“He’s scored four times this season,” Antonio chuckled on The Footballer’s Football Podcast. “Three of the times he’s been offside, he has taken his top off four times this season.”
While Antonio guffawed on the other side of the video call, his co-host Callum Wilson, another Premier League striker at Newcastle United, interjected: “He’s got four yellows, he’s almost on a suspension!”
Richarlison’s booking against Liverpool, for a goal which made it 3-3 before Diogo Jota scored the winner in a bonkers contest 99 seconds later, was actually only his third of the season. However, it was after the only Premier League goal he scored for Spurs in 27 appearances last term.
Ryan Mason was interim manager of Tottenham at the time and chastised Antonio’s comments, claiming he “doesn’t really like that type of thing” the following week.
Antonio was quick to defend himself, explaining: “Players have banter with players. We have not said Richarlison is not a good footballer or anything about his stats.”
The Jamaica international went on to insist that his joshing wouldn’t affect Richarlison in the slightest.
“He doesn’t actually care,” Antonio insisted. “If he cared, he would not be the quality of player he is – because you can’t let people get into your heads. If he saw the comments, he would not have thought we were taking the mick out of him. He will know it’s banter.”
However, it appears that Richarlison does care.
A clip of Antonio and Wilson’s Richarlison review was posted on TikTok after the season ended in June. Richarlison’s verified account replied: “How many goals do both have in the World Cup?”
As a Jamaica international, Antonio is yet to appear at a World Cup finals. Wilson made the England squad for the 2022 tournament in Qatar but failed to find the net. Richarlison, by comparison, scored three times for Brazil, including an acrobatic strike against Serbia which was voted goal of the tournament and nominated for the Puskas Award.
Lucas Paqueta played alongside Richarlison for a Brazil team that was knocked out of the quarter-finals. The midfielder is a teammate of Antonio’s at West Ham – for now – and has acted as an impartial third party in the first round of peace talks.
“I have gone to Paqueta,” Antonio revealed on his podcast. “I have said: ‘What’s wrong with your boy?’ It’s a bit of banter. I don’t understand why he is taking it so personally, to the stage where his manager has to talk.
“Lucas is like: ‘It’s just how he is, Mickey. I told him that’s how you are. But he says: ‘No, no, no. When we play against them. I am not going to shake his hand.'”
Antonio concluded: “I am no longer commenting on Richarlison.”
It remains to be seen whether the fire of this feud will still be raging but the time Antonio and Richarlison play each other for the first time.
Spurs faced off against their London rivals during pre-season but Antonio was not involved in West Ham’s 3-2 victory in Australia. Unless the two teams are drawn against one another in the Carabao Cup, the feted handshake showdown will not take place until Tottenham host West Ham under the lights in the Premier League on Tuesday, 5 December 2023.
If one of the duo in question fails to feature – both played less than half of the available Premier League minutes last season – then fans of this bubbling new rivalry will have to wait until Spurs travel to the London Stadium on Tuesday, 2 April 2024.