Gabriel Jesus only turned 25 in April, but it feels as though the Brazilian has been around for much longer. The young forward was highly touted as a future worldbeater when he began to break through the ranks at Palmeiras. He starred in Brazilian youth squads, and made his debut for the national team when still based in Brazil, donning the famous yellow and green of ASeleçãofor the first time in 2016, scoring twice when he started a World Cup qualifier against Ecuador in Quito.
He won the Brazilian league that year, as well as bringing home a gold medal from the Olympics. Jesus’ profile in the game grew, as he and Neymar got matching tattoos ahead of the competition. It came as no surprise to the footballing world when a move to Europe followed, with Manchester City paying a transfer fee of at least £27m, with the Brazilian arriving in January 2017.
He didn’t take long to slot into the side, his first goal coming on February 1st. Jesus was seen by most as a long-term replacement to Sergio Agüero, the Argentine striker being nine years his senior. It was always going to be a tough ask. Agüerois one of the deadliest forwards the Premier League has seen. He practically guaranteed goals, and had the ability to drag his team to victory, no matter the odds, as betting exchange punters will be aware. It’s no surprise that the most iconic moment in the history of the league involves the Argentine finding the back of the net with seconds left on the clock, winning the league in the process.
That being the case, the standard that Jesus was asked to measure up to was almost impossible. The Brazilian was tasked with being one of the best centre-forwards of his generation, and in this he was found wanting. While Jesus is a very good footballer, he’s failed to really nail down the centre-forward spot in Manchester, as City fans would have hoped, and he’s found himself playing out wide as often as he’s found himself leading the line.
He’s featured in at least 40 games in every full season he’s played at the club, and has been a regular feature in the side, while also cementing his place as a regular starter for Brazil, but the young attacker has never nailed down his place in Manchester. Jesus has always felt like a rotation player in Pep Guardiola’s side, and many feel that Jesus usually gets given a chance when Guardiola is looking to rest one of his stars.
The departure of Sergio Agüero last summerseemed to herald the perfect opportunity for Jesus to stake his place as the central striker, but instead he’s continued to mainly feature as a wide forward, with the likes of Phil Foden featuring centrally instead. Some saw this as simply a preference of Guardiola’s, to avoid using central strikers, but the confirmed arrival of Erling Haaland means that Jesus’ chance of being the central striker for Man City has likely come and gone.
There’s no doubting that, up until this point, Jesus has established his credentials as a Premier League quality player. However, when Man City shelled out £30m for him, many expected them to be signing a genuine superstar, and he’s failed to live up to that billing so far. Wherever his career takes him, Gabriel Jesus will be followed by that struggle between existing in the shadows and emerging into the limelight.