Friday 06 November 2020, 09:16

Calvert-Lewin: I want to be the man England rely on to score goals

  • Dominic Calvert-Lewin is the Premier League’s joint-top goalscorer

  • He discusses his aerial ability & desire to be England’s main man

  • DCL hails James, Richarlison, Rashford and Lewandowski

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s reputation has, in a few months, skyrocketed proportionately to his torso whenever James Rodriguez or Lucas Digne have swung back their arrows and aimed at the blue bullseye, AKA his head.

The 23-year-old has scored 11 goals in nine appearances for Everton. He is, in a sea of apex predators including Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Jamie Vardy, co-leading the swim for the Premier League Golden Boot. DCL made, and scored on – naturally, with a header – his England debut.

Three Lions legends Gary Lineker, Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney have raved about him. His game has been compared to Didier Drogba’s; his aerial majesty to Cristiano Ronaldo’s. And the man with the Michael Jordan-esque leap-and-hang has reportedly got Real Madrid reminiscing about ‘Bam Bam’ Zamorano’s aerial terrorisation of defences and salivating over luring him to the Bernabeu. caught up with Calvert-Lewin to discuss his incredible start to the season, whether he’s the best header of a ball in the world, and all things Everton and England. Dominic, 11 goals in nine games for Everton. How pleased are you with your start to the season?

Really pleased. Coming into this season I had a good feeling because of the signings we’d made and how hard I’d worked. I really wanted to start fast, and I’ve certainly done that. Consistency is key – I want to keep playing well, first and foremost, and the goals will keep coming.

You’re the Premier League’s joint-top scorer alongside Son Heungmin. Is winning the Golden Boot something you think about?

It’s not necessarily something I think about – the main competition is with myself. I’m competing with myself every day in training to try and better myself, and going into games to try and score goals. It’s nice to be recognised at the moment at the top of the scoring charts. Whoever scores the most goals, the Golden Boot is a by-product of that. I want to be seen up there, at that level.

Your leap, is it a natural gift or is it something you’ve worked on?

My leap is something that I’ve always had. I’ve always been able to jump high. I’ve been blessed with the athleticism that I’ve got. I’ve worked a little bit to try and fine-tune certain aspects – my pace, leap, timing – to make it work on the football pitch, but I always had it in my armoury being able to jump high. I was always good at long jump back in the day at school – nobody could ever beat me.

Did people try and get you to pursue other sports?

100 metres, 200 metres, long jump – they were my kind of things. I think athletics is something I could have potentially gone into, but football’s always been my love and what I wanted to do. I’m very grateful to be where I am now.

Are you the best player in the world in the air right now?

(laughs) I’ve heard that a little bit recently and obviously it’s nice to hear that one of my top attributes is being recognised. I’ve got other aspects to my game, but it’s important to work on your strengths. When I do get a chance in the air, I want to make sure I put it in the back of the net. The aerial game is something I take great pride in.

Can you talk about the difference between Dominic Calvert-Lewin when he arrived at Everton and Dominic Calvert-Lewin now?

I’d say it’s more the mental side. Confidence. The belief in my ability has always been there, but to do it, act upon it is something different. I’ve gained experience, knowledge. Naturally, technically, tactically you improve. I probably had a bit of everything when I first joined Everton, but I was very raw and I had a lot of work to do. I still do now – I’m working and improving every day. There’s a lot more to come from me. But mentally I feel a different player and person, so I’d say I’ve evolved in this way the most.

What’s Carlo Ancelotti like to work under?

Carlo’s top. He’s very much a people person. He came with a reputation of being a good man-manager and to work with him in the flesh, I could see that straight away. He has an aura about him – a friendly aura, he makes you feel comfortable. He lets you enjoy what you do. I’m enjoying my football now more than ever – day in, day out – and then when I step on to the pitch I think that shows. It’s showing in my goals return. I think tactically he’s brought experience and great knowledge to the club. For me as a young striker, you think of the players he’s worked with in the past when he’s giving me advice. He gives it in different ways, subtle ways. You see some of his quotes towards me – it’s a nice way to take things on board. I take everything he says on board. He wants me to improve. He’s on at me every day – every day – to keep getting in the box, hitting it first time, scoring goals. I’m just like a sponge taking it all in.

What was your reaction when you heard rumours James Rodriguez was coming to Everton?

It’s only right that a club of Everton’s size, with where we want to go, attract that calibre of player. For me personally, I was just really excited because I was aware of what he was capable of. I’d seen the great goals he’d scored and the big teams he’d played for. He’s a top, top player and for me, as a centre-forward, I knew chance-creation would be there and it would be down to me to put the ball in the back of the net. It has been and I’m really enjoying playing with him. He’s a different level. He dictates games. He takes players out of games by taking touches. The way he manipulates the ball, he’s very hard to get it off – I don’t think I’ve seen him get tackled, even in training.

What about Richarlison?

Richy’s top. We’ve played with each other for a while now and we’ve got to learn each other’s game and personality. First and foremost, it’s his mentality – he’s a winner. He works so hard for the team. Some stuff that the naked eye can’t see as a spectator, but playing with him, the energy and work-rate that he gives you can’t be underestimated. And the quality he’s got going forward, he’s such a threat. For me to play alongside a player like that, it’s an absolute joy. We enjoy each other doing well – scoring, assisting. When he scores I’m equally as happy for him as he is for me when I score. I’ve got no doubt that he’s got a lot more to come, but the proof is in the pudding with the way you see him play at the moment – he’s got a bit of everything.

How confident are you that Everton can qualify for the UEFA Champions League this season?

We have to be confident. I’m confident, with the quality we’ve got within the squad, that we can achieve Champions League football. But we have to be consistent throughout the season. We can’t afford to have off-days. Sometimes you can’t put your finger on why some results happen, but it’s how you react to them. But if we stay consistent I’ve got no doubt we can achieve big things.

Moving on to international football, how did it feel to make your England debut?

Ah, it was amazing. It’s very cliché to say you dream of it as a kid, but for me it was really true. That feeling of seeing the No9 next to my name in the dressing room and pulling on the England shirt, it was absolutely amazing. Then going on the pitch and scoring… it’s emotional, you think about how proud your family will be. It was just exactly how I dreamed it to be. It doesn’t always go that way. Football moves fast. You play well, you win, you score. You can embrace it, but then it’s suddenly on to the next game, so I just had to take it in and enjoy that moment. But it’s something I want more of. I’m addicted. I want to keep playing for England and doing well and scoring goals.

You had two starts, scored on your debut and put in two good performances. How would you assess your first time away with England on a personal level?

I think it was successful. Sometimes people are unsure if you’re capable of competing at that level, question if you should be there, so you have to prove that you are comfortable and can compete. But I didn’t just want to prove that. I wanted to prove that I could really affect games and bring different qualities to the squad, so I was very happy.

You mentioned the squad, but how determined are you to make a starting place your own?

You have to be. I’m still growing as a player and a person, but the ambition has to be high and my goals has always been high: to play for England and to play regularly for England. Nothing’s changed there. Even when I was nowhere near the England squad, out of the Everton side, my ambition was always to be where I am now and more. That’s where my sights are set: I want to lead the line for England in major competitions and be the man they rely on to score goals.

You scored the winner for England in the FIFA U-20 World Cup final in 2017…

That was a great feeling. As a group, we got everything right at that tournament. I remember going into the final feeling, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be, this is my stage’. After the game I remember running over to my family and celebrating and celebrating long into the night with my family, because they were over in South Korea. To score the only goal in the final, it was a very special moment and something that will stay with me forever.

What are your memories of the senior FIFA World Cup from growing up?

Heartache (laughs). You always want England to do well. You remember England always getting close and not quite winning a World Cup or the EUROs. But as a young boy and a football fan, it was always so exciting to watch England on the big stage. Big players from the Premier League going to represent England in the World Cup, it was always something I looked up to and aspired to. Just because it’s not been done in recent times, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be part of something special, an England team that wins it.

How confident are you that England can win the senior World Cup at Qatar 2022?

I’ve not been in the fold very long – I’ve only had one camp – but I’m confident. Players are doing it for their clubs week in, week out. There are so many quality players in the team. Everybody, to the man, has to back themselves to compete with the best players in the world. I want to be a part of that. I back myself against whoever I’m up against, and I’m sure all the other lads do too. There are a lot of top teams in the world. I had the opportunity to play against Belgium in the last international camp. Belgium are the number one team in the world rankings, so to play against them at the beginning of my international journey, to feel what that level of play is like, it was a great experience in preparing me for what is to come. To win that game and to put in a good performance, I think we showed that England can compete with the best.

You talk about England having so much quality, but who do you think is their best player?

For me, Marcus Rashford. I’d seen a lot of him and he’s an unbelievable player, but I’d never played with him and he was even better than I thought. He’s got everything: pace, power, skill. He’s so sharp, clinical in front of goal. He can finish, he can head. As a centre-forward, playing alongside someone like that fills you with the utmost confidence you can beat whoever you play against. I’ve got no doubt he’s going to be a top, top player for many years.

What about the best player in the world?

(pauses) Robert Lewandowski. He scores so many goals. As a young centre-forward, if I’m to look along the line of top centre-forwards, I would look at Robert Lewandowski and study his game and see what positions he gets in, because I feel he’s got similar attributes to what I have.

What do you like to do off the pitch?

I’m a creature of habit. I like to keep myself on a tight schedule to prepare myself as best I can, ultimately, for playing on the weekend. Football-related, I like to do yoga and have massages and things like that. Other than that, I play a bit of PlayStation with my mates – I enjoy that. I try to learn a bit of Spanish. And when I have free time – it’s been a bit hard at the moment – I like to go for coffees with my mates and be around my friends and go home to see my family.

Finally, what’s your favourite food?

Salmon, in different variations. If a game’s on a Saturday, I’ll have salmon for dinner on a Thursday, salmon on a Friday, and salmon for pre-match. I just love salmon – can you tell? (laughs)