‘The next Ronaldo‘ – a quote by former Barcelona defender Dani Alves regarding the future of Manchester City’s number nine, Gabriel Jesus. A comparison that will always come with heaps of pressure.
But pressure seems like nothing to this young striker, who continues to keep breaking boundaries in his career and proving doubters wrong. Whether you’re a fan or not, Jesus’ career path has been nothing short of motivational and at the young age of 22, he shows no signs of slowing down.
On this day in 2017, Manchester City acquired the signature of the Brazilian wonderkid from Palmeiras, and we take a look at Jesus’ life so far and what the future holds for him!
Samba in the streets
Like almost any young Brazilian, Jesus grew up surrounded by football in the streets of Jardim Peri, a district of Sau Paulo. He would grow up playing street and cage football, a much more close-call style of play that tests your first touch and trickery to the limit – something the Brazilian star would bring with him all the way to the top later on in his football development.
“The boy is a superstar,” states one of his amateur coaches. “It seems as though the ball looks for him when it’s in the area. He is always in the right place at the right time, and he’s always been like that.”
Not short on praise, Jesus would see himself offered a contract at Palmeiras, where he was then able to show his skill on a more professional scale.
Playing for Palmeiras
Following 37 goals in 22 games during the U17 Championships, Jesus was already catching the attention of various potential suitors, whilst in the meantime, painting the streets of Brazil in preparation for the 2014 World Cup – at stage he would hope to see himself perform at in the future. He would make his debut for the Brazil team at the age 17 on the 7th March 2015, and earned his first start on the 29th April in the same year.
After racking up numerous amounts of games for Palmeiras, Jesus became an integral part of the team, scoring 21 goals for the side, winning the Brazilian league title, and earning himself the Player of the Season accolade.
His stellar performances were not going unnoticed, as he was beginning to become linked with some of the top teams around Europe. However, he would make his decision and join the blue side of Manchester.
“I want to win titles and Manchester City is a club that is used to winning. City is a club that always competes for the title in the competitions it enters, so that was an important factor, and because of the manager, Pep Guardiola, and the squad“, Jesus stated upon his arrival at the Etihad Stadium.
Backed by Brazil
Later that year, Jesus would see himself featuring as part of the Olympic gold medal-winning Brazilian team, scoring four goals and a successful penalty shoot-out strike in the final.
Clearly destined to become a star, he was then later called up to the men’s first team and made his debut against Ecuador, scoring two goals and later becoming the top scorer in qualifying for Brazil, after finding his feet as the national side’s number nine.
His incredible form would then run out at the worst time for Brazil, right at the start of the World Cup, where he started five games, got knocked out in the quarter-finals and managed a total of zero goals. He did make an international recovery in 2019, scoring three goals in the Copa America, including the winning goal in the final, as Brazil went on to win the competition.
Boy in Blue
A long work permit process meant that Manchester City fans had to wait for the arrival of Jesus, and it certainly was worth the wait.
Jesus was finally able to make his Manchester City debut coming off the bench against Tottenham in 2017. His City career almost got off to the perfect start, when he thought he’d notched the winner at the back post, only to be denied by the offside flag. One week later, he would score his first goal for the blues, in a 4-0 away win at West ham. After a flying start in the North-West, Jesus unfortunately picked up an injury that would rule him out until the latter phase of the season.
The following campaign sparked an abundance of questions regarding the Brazilian striker. People were wondering how it was possible to play club legend Sergio Aguero AND Gabriel Jesus at the same time and to be honest, it wasn’t really possible. Guardiola started the season using a 5-3-2 formation in which both strikers were able to play. However, this style was halted due to the form of Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.
Guardiola would resort back to playing his trusted 4-3-3, while Jesus would take his place on the bench for most of the season. The campaign was not a failure in many regards, as the 20-year-old would still go on to score 17 goals, but was left wondering as to how and why he was being left out of the team. He would see himself score arguably his most important goal in a Manchester City shirt, when he dinked the ball over the Southampton goalkeeper in the final minute of the 2017/18 season, powering Manchester City to a record-breaking 100 points for the campaign.
The following season would be similar, still not finding many starts but still scoring a handful of goals in a blue shirt. This campaign lead to 21 goals, including an FA Cup final brace, despite only making 20 starts. He was really starting to push for his place in the team, but in Pep Guardiola’s eyes, he wasn’t finding enough spectacular performances to warrant the starts.
The 2019/20 season has got off to a relatively good start for the youngster, with 14 goals and 19 starts under Pep Guardiola – only one start away from equalling his previous seasons’ total. “He is so calm; he’s a competitor and he accepts the decisions. In every training session, he fights like an animal,” stated Guardiola, portraying the fight in the Brazilian forward.
Fast-forward to the Future
Not that Jesus has disappointed in a Manchester City shirt, but it has been hard for him to match the levels of Sergio Aguero. There is an argument that Jesus would start for any other team in the Premier League, which just shows the level the Brazilian forward can reach. Jesus still has a lot to offer for the blues and, as we’ve seen, he certainly won’t quit. He has earned himself the number nine for club and country after all!
Although taking over the ‘irreplaceable’ Sergio Aguero would be a hard task for anyone, Jesus has almost certainly staked a big enough claim that he would be able to achieve heights that could come close to the Argentine. Possibly not the sharp shooting gunslinger that Sergio Aguero is, but Jesus brings a rawness from his game that only tends to be seen in top Brazilian players like Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. This rawness has clearly been tuned and refined by the mastermind of Pep Guardiola, but his close control and dribbling is something that is unmatched in this Manchester City team and is undoubtedly a major asset to the frontline.
For those that question Jesus’ integrity in front of goal, the statistics speak for themselves, with the Brazilian earning himself 53 goals in only 75 starts for the blues, and seems to score more and more every time he gets a run of games in the side. His future at Manchester City is certainly still up and running, so don’t be surprised when he earns his spot in the starting XI week in, week out, spearheading the blues for years to come!
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