Five minutes after Manchester City officially announced the signing of Gabriel Jesus from Palmeiras, several fans were already saying the player would win the Ballon d’Or in a few years.
Some of them were obviously joking, but there’s no doubt that the expectation over the 19-year-old is very high. A battle between Manchester City, Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus is something that always attracts lots of attention to a youngster, showing there must be something special about the kid.
And there is. It doesn’t mean he’s already a world class star with no chance of failure, but Pep Guardiola has a huge talent on his hands.
Gabriel’s impact in the Brazilian league is something more recent, but his success for Palmeiras dates back to the youth teams. In 2014, playing the Campeonato Paulista Sub 17, the youngster scored nothing less than 37 goals in 22 games, setting a new record in the competition.
That was enough to get him to the first team, for whom he debuted a few months later. Playing with the older guys, Gabriel moved from the middle to the wings, so he could take advantage of his speed and his skills instead of struggling against tough defenders.
He was brought on as a substitute eight times in the 2015 Campeonato Paulista, and despite having scored no goals, his performances were good enough to get him a place in the Brazilian League and Copa do Brasil squad. That’s when he got more game time, finishing the year with 29 appearances and 9 goals.
To build on the good year for Palmeiras, his 2015 U-20 World Cup for Brazil was superb. The numbers didn’t show much (one goal in six games), but the skills he’s showed in that tournament were something really impressive, and according to reports, that’s when Manchester City started having an interest in him.
It was a very promising start for a kid in his debut year, so the expectations for 2016 became a lot higher. The Copa do Brasil title gave Palmeiras a spot in the Copa Libertadores, which was played simultaneously with the Campeonato Paulista.
Gabriel had a decent record in these tournaments, having scored nine goals in 17 appearances. However, Palmeiras ended up failing in both of them, knocked out in the Libertadores group stage and losing the Campeonato Paulista semifinals to their rivals from Santos.
But with a few changes in the team at the beginning of the Brazilian league, Gabriel started being used in his old position, as a centre-forward. That’s when his success exploded. With 10 goals in 14 games, he is still the league’s top scorer despite having left Palmeiras two rounds ago to join the Olympic team. The club were on top of the table then, and are now in third place.
The expectations for the Olympic trio of Gabriel Jesus, Neymar and Gabigol are quite high, and with the Palmeiras starlet now going to Europe, the comparisons with the Barcelona star are almost inevitable.
But they are quite unfair, too. Gabriel and Neymar are completely different players.
Even during his time on the wing, Gabriel was way more objective, always looking for positions where he could score goals. His body may look frail, but he’s not afraid of challenges and is often fighting for balls against the big guys, something that is rarely done by the likes of Neymar and Gabigol.
If we could have the permission to use that unfairness and compare Gabriel Jesus to someone, that would definitely be Ronaldo in his early years. Thin, skilful and a true goalscorer. Of course we’re not comparing potentials, since it’s obviously impossible to repeat what the Brazilian legend did during his career. But in a matter of style, that’s not only something seen by spectators, but also publicly admitted by Gabriel himself.
Now comes the biggest uncertainty, which is the adaptation to the Premier League. The player is staying at Palmeiras until December, when the Brazilian league ends, and the deal is to join Manchester City in the winter transfer market.
It’s hard to say if it would be good or bad to start playing for the club in the middle of the season. Of course it’s difficult to suddenly change leagues and be forced to adapt to another football culture when the league is on fire, especially when he still has to fit in with Pep Guardiola’s philosophy, which isn’t something easy.
On the other hand, maybe a few injuries and some easy games could end up giving him some opportunities which he wouldn’t have at the start of the season. There are pros and cons, but as he’s a signing for the future, we shouldn’t stick much to his debut year.
In case Palmeiras qualify for the Copa Libertadores, we’re quite sure they will try to have him on another short loan. And that would be a good choice. Gabriel would join City in June 2017, after getting even more international experience from a tough tournament, and there would still be time to make the pre-season with City.
It seems like a very good scenario, although it still depends on Palmeiras’ run in the Brazilian League, and obviously, on Guardiola’s wish.
Manchester City have a gem, and by paying £27m for a South American kid, they certainly know so. Gabriel has chosen to play for them because of a phone call from Pep Guardiola, which makes the story even more attractive.
It really seems that everyone is happy and it’s the perfect environment for a youngster to reach his full potential.
Let’s see what happens.