ESPN Brasil today features an interview with Watford striker João Pedro, who’s been recently living a mix of feelings in his career.

The 20-year-old, who’s been scoring his first goals in the Premier League this season, is also overcoming the death of his step-father, Carlos Junior, who passed away in November.

It was in that same month that Watford played Manchester United, with João Pedro scoring one of the goals in that 4-1 win. The player recalled how important this game was for them both, and that’s why he was so emotional once the ball hit the back of the net.

“In fact, he came into my life at the worst time, I was living at the academy. And he always helped me, helped my mother, in what we needed. So he was the father that, unfortunately, for other reasons, I didn’t have the presence. My biological father,” João Pedro told ESPN Brasil.

“And he always, every morning, motivated me. ‘Damn João, you’re going to play against Cristiano Ronaldo, you’re going to play against Manchester United. In this game you will score a goal’. Unfortunately he couldn’t see from the stadium, but I’m sure he could see from up there. Right in that game it was my first Premier League goal, against Manchester United, where Cristiano Ronaldo was. That’s why I got emotional, because I wanted him to be there, that he could see it, because I’m sure he’d be very happy.”

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Quizzed if the loss of his step-father has been affecting him in training and games, João Pedro says this is not an issue for him.

“It was harder, I think, at home. Because when I wasn’t home, he was the man of the house, taking control of everything. And football, in my life, is something inexplicable. When I’m on the pitch, when I’m training, I forget everything. All the problems I have.”

João Pedro also talked about his relationship with Claudio Ranieri, claiming the Italian boss has been very important in his evolution at the club.

“Ranieri talks to me a lot. So much about here at Watford or also about my career. He believes in me a lot. He always helps me, whenever he has to pull my ear, he pulls my ear. So I think it has to be that way. It’s no use having a guy just to praise, rub your head and then there’s no evolution.

“But he as a person too… when I had my loss, the other day he arrived and spoke to me. He said that if I needed a few days to stay at home with my family, or organise some things, I could. But I said that I didn’t need to, that I would be there, that I would train, that football helps me a lot in this matter.”

Signed from Fluminense on a €4m deal in 2020, João Pedro has 12 goals and five assists in 60 appearances for Watford so far.

He has scored twice in his first season in the Premier League, and has been getting increasing playing time in the team.