Allan repeats one word so clearly during the Zoom chat that it is understood before the interpreter translates from Portuguese to English. Professor. It is the prefix he uses for Carlo Ancelotti, and Carlo Ancelotti alone.
The Brazilian does not need to open his mouth to articulate his admiration for the Everton manager. He is an Everton player for a start, having rejected Champions League overtures from clubs such as Atlético Madrid to be reunited with his former Napoli coach. The lure of working with Ancelotti again proved enticing for Allan and James Rodríguez in the transfer window and Everton, having won their first seven games of a season in all competitions for the first time since 1894-95, are already reaping the benefit of stellar acquisitions.
But professor? It may fit the old Everton moniker of “The School of Science” but this is a personal tribute from the club’s talented and tenacious new midfielder.
Allan breaks into laughter when asked to explain. “I think I refer to him as professor because of the way he reads the game, the way he prepares for games and the relationship he has with the players,” says the 29-year-old, signed for an initial £22m after five years with Napoli. “He gets the best out of us. He is a maestro and if you look at his history and success in the game it speaks for itself. He has won everywhere he has gone and he is the type of person who deserves the best words to describe him.
“In Italy we tended to refer to the coach as ‘Mister’, which is the case for all the coaches, but Carlo Ancelotti is a great guy, a really high quality coach who manages to keep all the players satisfied, motivated and happy.”
Allan admits Ancelotti was a key factor in his decision to swap Naples for Merseyside, along with the owner Farhad Moshiri’s ambition to challenge the leading lights of the Premier League. “I spoke to Professor Ancelotti and we spoke about the project he had here with the team, the building of the new stadium and having Everton consistently at the top of the table. Working with Carlo Ancelotti weighed heavily on my decision, also the size of Everton as a club. There were other bids and interest from elsewhere but Everton had been interested in signing me right from the start. When you see this desire and commitment I didn’t have to think about it twice. I put the other bids to one side and focused on signing for Everton.”
The Rio-born midfielder, who has surprisingly made only nine appearances for Brazil, has been fundamental to Everton’s instant transformation this season alongside his fellow newcomers Rodríguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré. It is one of the many pities of the current situation that Goodison has not been packed to acclaim them. Allan, with his intelligent distribution, relentless work rate and ferocious will to win, is the type who would be embraced. “Us players really miss the fans,” he says. “Especially for me as a new player in the Premier League. I’ve watched the Premier League for years and I know how passionate and fanatical the fans are. Hopefully this great form and moment we are going through will carry on until the fans come back.”
Rodríguez has captured the imagination and headlines since his arrival from Real Madrid but, according to Allan, he receives no special status on the training ground. “We played against each other once before – Real Madrid versus Napoli in the Champions League – and I kicked him once or twice. I’ve kicked him once or twice in training too,” he says with a smile. “It is a lot better having him as a teammate than as an opponent. James Rodríguez is a player of immense quality. He has had a great start to his career in the Premier League and without a doubt that is just the start. There is a lot more that he can give, a lot more that he can offer to make the Everton fans very happy.”
As befits his position on the pitch, Allan is content for others to take the glory providing he remains part of a winning team. “As a deep-lying midfielder sometimes a really important tackle is like a goal or an assist and I celebrate that,” says a player who has been known to rise from a challenge with a euphoric fist-pump. “It doesn’t matter who scores, whether it is Richarlison, Dominic [Calvert-Lewin], James or one of the centre-backs. The important thing is getting the win. My preference is to be at the top of the table rather than scoring goals.”
And so to Liverpool and what Allan, an Everton player for only six weeks, already knows as the “10-year taboo”. His club have not beaten their local rivals for exactly a decade but his own record against Jürgen Klopp’s team is vastly superior: two wins, one draw and one defeat in four Champions League games for Ancelotti’s Napoli. He credits the record with a familiar term.
“Professor Ancelotti and his coaching staff are highly intelligent and they prepare for every detail to face the opposition. Through that we came out on top most of the time against Liverpool. Every game against Liverpool is difficult but thank God we got the better of them the majority of times. Hopefully it will be no different on Saturday.”