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Gabriel Jesus on Aguero, life as a Brazilian in Manchester

by 11/08/2017 20:08:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Gabriel Jesus counts Brazil legend Ronaldo as a friend and asks him for advice  
  • Striker is looking to live up to the hype, with some City fans calling him 'the King'
  • In 2014, he was painting the streets for the World Cup, and now he's Brazil's No 9
  • He says his mum texts him about offside rule and may know it better than him
  • Neymar wanted Jesus to sign for Barcelona when he left Brazil for the Etihad
  • BETTING GUIDE: City and United can hit Premier League rivals with a one-two

By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail

Published: 07:59 EDT, 11 August 2017 | Updated: 20:08 EDT, 11 August 2017

Perhaps the most memorable tribute paid to young Gabriel Jesus came from the great Brazilian, Ronaldo.

'When I see him, I am reminded of my own past,' said one of football's iconic centre forwards.

Seated on a chair in a vast sports hall at Manchester City's training centre, Jesus looks momentarily bashful but doesn't attempt to duck the compliment.

Gabriel Jesus is one of Manchester City's biggest talents and huge things are expected of him
Gabriel Jesus is one of Manchester City's biggest talents and huge things are expected of him

Gabriel Jesus is one of Manchester City's biggest talents and huge things are expected of him

City have spent heavily this summer and it will be down to Jesus to score plenty of their goals
City have spent heavily this summer and it will be down to Jesus to score plenty of their goals

City have spent heavily this summer and it will be down to Jesus to score plenty of their goals

The City striker takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders this week
The City striker takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders this week

The City striker takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders this week

'It means an awful lot that he said that,' smiled Jesus. 'I'm very honoured. We speak a lot and I know now that, if I ever have any doubts or questions, I can ask. I'm very proud about that. He was the best player I ever saw.'

If Ronaldo represents an image of Brazil's glorious past then Jesus – along with his friend Neymar – embodies the present and indeed the future. World Cup year is just around the corner and, in their part of South America, atonement for the horrors of Brazil 1 Germany 7 is required.

More pressingly, however, much is expected of Jesus at City. Improvement is needed in the blue half of Manchester, too.

The club has spent heavily to give Pep Guardiola what he needs this season but the player that the City coach wanted most of all when he arrived in the summer of 2016 has actually been here since January.

Jesus is now used to appearing in front of the cameras - but that wasn't the case back in 2014
Jesus is now used to appearing in front of the cameras - but that wasn't the case back in 2014

Jesus is now used to appearing in front of the cameras - but that wasn't the case back in 2014

The 20-year-old heaps praise on his mother for bringing up him, his brothers and his sister
The 20-year-old heaps praise on his mother for bringing up him, his brothers and his sister

The 20-year-old heaps praise on his mother for bringing up him, his brothers and his sister

Jesus smiles alongside his Manchester City team-mates as they train on the eve of the season
Jesus smiles alongside his Manchester City team-mates as they train on the eve of the season

Jesus smiles alongside his Manchester City team-mates as they train on the eve of the season

During the 2014 Brazil World Cup, he was painting the street green and yellow in his favela

City paid £27m for the 20-year-old when he was still 19. It's hardly small change but it's indicative of what has happened in the transfer market that the club have subsequently spent more on a goalkeeper and almost twice as much on a right back.

Jesus has only played 12 hours of football for City due to a broken foot suffered on his fifth appearance at Bournemouth. But the impact he made in that time was undeniable. Already he has seven Premier League goals to his name and in Manchester some City supporters are already calling him the 'King'.

So is he ready? Can the boy become King so quickly? Is he really worth all the fuss?

'I don't really know,' he laughed. 'How can I say? But I'm really happy to hear the nice things. Now it's up to me to respond on the field, to train well every day and give myself the best possible preparation to live up to these expectations.

Jesus takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders at City's training ground
Jesus takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders at City's training ground

Jesus takes part in some filming for the Premier League rights holders at City's training ground

The 20-year-old has a big season ahead of him as he looks to prove his worth at the Etihad
The 20-year-old has a big season ahead of him as he looks to prove his worth at the Etihad

The 20-year-old has a big season ahead of him as he looks to prove his worth at the Etihad

Jesus steps out to train at the Etihad Campus ahead of a trip to Brighton on Saturday evening
Jesus steps out to train at the Etihad Campus ahead of a trip to Brighton on Saturday evening

Jesus steps out to train at the Etihad Campus ahead of a trip to Brighton on Saturday evening

'I am very glad that the season is here. I have been waiting. I like the holidays but I prefer playing football so I'm looking forward to the work ahead of us.

'Yeah the pressure will be there, but all the big teams have to fight for silverware, not just us. I know that nowadays City is a club that has to win trophies. We didn't manage it last season, so this season everyone has to be focused on putting that right'

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the net within minutes of his debut as a late substitute for City against Tottenham in January. The goal was ruled offside but the recollection is valid. Sky pundit Gary Neville has already called Jesus one of the hungriest players he has ever seen and the Brazilian has always moved fast.

He didn't join the Brazilian club Palmeiras until he was 15 and only made his professional debut two and a half years ago. During the 2014 World Cup, he was still an unknown, painting the street green and yellow near his home in the Sao Paolo favela of Jardim Peri.

Three years on and there is a pop song about Jesus in the Brazilian charts and now a life-sized painting of him on a wall in that same favela. Wearing the Brazil shirt with a No 9 on the back, it has come to represent a symbol of where hard work and God-given talent can take you.

City's players are put through their paces at the Etihad Campus by the club's coaches on Friday
City's players are put through their paces at the Etihad Campus by the club's coaches on Friday

City's players are put through their paces at the Etihad Campus by the club's coaches on Friday

Jesus performs kick-ups with the new Premier League ball, with the season just hours away
Jesus performs kick-ups with the new Premier League ball, with the season just hours away

Jesus performs kick-ups with the new Premier League ball, with the season just hours away

Jesus is very close to his mum, and he says she regularly texts him when he is offside too much
Jesus is very close to his mum, and he says she regularly texts him when he is offside too much

Jesus is very close to his mum, and he says she regularly texts him when he is offside too much

Everyone knows I care very deeply for my mother, and that I love her very much 
Gabriel Jesus 

Jesus may still look like a boy, may live with his mother in Manchester and may still have had braces on his teeth when he posed for selfies with Palmeiras fans at the Allianz Parque just two years ago. But Jesus is a Brazilian international now, an Olympic gold medallist and a footballer so sought after this time last year that Guardiola called him himself to make sure he could close the deal. One of his old coaches at Palmeiras has referred to Jesus as 'like one of the Beatles'.

'The painting [in Jardim Peri] is great, really great,' Jesus said. 'I'm really happy to be seen as a role model for people back there, as an example of someone who is a fighter, a winner, someone who achieved his dreams.

'I remember the World Cup coming to Brazil, of course. In every community people were painting murals in the streets, having parties and hanging flags. So I did it too. I was just a fan.

'I was still a Palmeiras youth team player living in Jardim Peri, so I joined in there. As anyone would. And I watched the whole tournament there with my friends. It doesn't seem too long ago, really.'

Near his home in Jardim Peri, there is now a mural of the striker and he has become a big star
Near his home in Jardim Peri, there is now a mural of the striker and he has become a big star

Near his home in Jardim Peri, there is now a mural of the striker and he has become a big star

Bernardo Silva is watched by his team-mates as he participates in a training drill on Friday
Bernardo Silva is watched by his team-mates as he participates in a training drill on Friday

Bernardo Silva is watched by his team-mates as he participates in a training drill on Friday

Watch video of Jesus' short time with City and you will recognise a touch and grace typically associated with South American players but also a bravery and desire to work that has not always been so. For example, his first City goal – at home against Swansea – was a rebound, scored from a place where the bodies were flying.

Those familiar with Jesus' talents attribute his style to his time playing on the varzea in Brazil, rough clay pitches where the bounce of the ball can be unpredictable and the physicality of the play relentless.

Jesus typically played with older boys on a varzea at an old military prison camp. Former City player Robinho is on record saying that it was this that shaped the young forward, and footage of it on the excellent CityTV documentary 'Made in Brazil' is revealing.

'Yes, it definitely had a big influence on how I play,' nodded Jesus. 'It was playing on the varzea where I learned to be a warrior, to fight for every ball, and then to never give it away.

'This is how I play football, it's always been like that and I hope it always will be.'

Just months after arriving in England, Jesus nets against Manchester United - but it is ruled out 
Just months after arriving in England, Jesus nets against Manchester United - but it is ruled out 

Just months after arriving in England, Jesus nets against Manchester United - but it is ruled out 

He may still look like a boy, but Jesus is now one of the poster boys for Brazilian football
He may still look like a boy, but Jesus is now one of the poster boys for Brazilian football

He may still look like a boy, but Jesus is now one of the poster boys for Brazilian football

Jesus has not yet made the emotional separation from his life at home and says he has no desire to. He cried on the field when he left Palmeiras, urging supporters through a microphone: 'Do not forget me'. It is unlikely they will.

He returned to Jardim Peri last New Year's Eve and played impromptu street football with children. The video is on his Instagram page.

And there is usually a significant piece of home with him in England, too. There are many stories out there about Jesus' mother, Vera Lucia. Some – such as suggestions she gives him pocket money from his wages and won't allow him a girlfriend – are apocryphal while others are not.

The Brazilian scored his first goal at the Etihad against Swansea back on February 5, 2017
The Brazilian scored his first goal at the Etihad against Swansea back on February 5, 2017

The Brazilian scored his first goal at the Etihad against Swansea back on February 5, 2017

Ronaldo texts Jesus regularly and offers him advice, and the City man says he's honoured
Ronaldo texts Jesus regularly and offers him advice, and the City man says he's honoured

Ronaldo texts Jesus regularly and offers him advice, and the City man says he's honoured

HOW JESUS FARED IN HIS DEBUT SEASON

Premier League starts: 8

Premier League sub apps: 2

Goals: 7, Assists: 4

Pass Success: 81.3 per cent 

Vera Lucia did, for example, speak to Brazilian TV station Globo live on air about her son's performance for Brazil against Venezuela during the half-time break. After he scored twice on his debut against Ecuador, meanwhile, she text him to say he was offside too often.

Jesus' trademark goal celebration – hand held to his ear like a telephone – is all about Vera Lucia. It features on one of his many tattoos next to the words 'Alo Mae'. Hello Mum.

'Everyone knows I care very deeply for my mother, and that I love her very much,' said Jesus.

'For everything she's done for me, and continues to do for me today, and for having brought me, my brothers and my sister up on her own.

'I always want her close to me. Right now, she's taking care of some things in Brazil. But as soon as that's sorted, she'll come back here to join me and support me.

'I scored a goal in that game against Venezuela and it was the first time that I celebrated with a gesture for my mother. My friends had helped me to come up with it as a tribute to her.

Jesus was struck down by injury in the early part of his City career but is now back fully fit
Jesus was struck down by injury in the early part of his City career but is now back fully fit

Jesus was struck down by injury in the early part of his City career but is now back fully fit

He has only played 10 times in the league so far, but already has seven goals to his name
He has only played 10 times in the league so far, but already has seven goals to his name

He has only played 10 times in the league so far, but already has seven goals to his name

'So the TV station called her and spoke with her. It made me very happy.

'She's a fan but she knows a lot about the game. Above all, the offside rule.

'When I'm caught offside, she's always sending me messages.

'I like to think I understand the offside rule well enough. Hopefully she doesn't understand it better than me.'

Back when Pep Guardiola was phoning Gabriel Jesus to encourage him to move to Manchester City, the player's friend Neymar was telling him to join Barcelona.

The two players, both from Sao Paolo, are close and even have matching tattoos, depicting young boys looking back fondly at the favelas where they were born.

On the day we met, Neymar's move to PSG from Barcelona was being completed so it looks as though Jesus made the right call to head to England.

Asked if he could envisage Neymar at City, Jesus laughed: 'Well, to be honest I'm not sure that I'm going to be able to convince him.

'I think that many players, just like me, feel a strong desire to play in the Premier League.

'I think he must, too. He's already said that he'd like to play here one day.

Pep Guardiola was very keen to get Jesus through the door when he arrived at Manchester City
Pep Guardiola was very keen to get Jesus through the door when he arrived at Manchester City

Pep Guardiola was very keen to get Jesus through the door when he arrived at Manchester City

Neymar wanted his countryman to join Barcelona, but he opted for the Premier League instead
Neymar wanted his countryman to join Barcelona, but he opted for the Premier League instead

Neymar wanted his countryman to join Barcelona, but he opted for the Premier League instead

I think that many players, just like me, feel a strong desire to play in the Premier League. I think [Neymar] must, too. He's already said that he'd like to play here one day 
Gabriel Jesus 

'The most important thing is that he makes the right decisions over what's best for him. I always cheer for him.

'I'm not sure if one day I could persuade him to come to England. But if he decides to come, I'll do my best to make sure it's to City!'

Jesus' comments may have been tongue in cheek but an impending rivalry with another South American is very real and looms large.

Guardiola was quick to bump Sergio Aguero from his team when Jesus arrived last season, only reinstating him when the new signing got injured in February. Three times towards the end of last season, Guardiola started with both men. 

But with other attacking players bought for big money this summer, it feels as though something will have to give and Jesus is expected to start at Brighton on Saturday night.

'Sergio Aguero is a high-quality player,' said Jesus. 'I'm a big fan of his, both of his football and his humility. But ultimately it's the manager's decision. If he wants us to play together we can, as we have already shown. But if he wants me to play up front alone, it's his decision.

'I just hope that any competition between us benefits the team, that it inspires both of us to score plenty of goals for City and leads to the club winning lots of matches and trophies.'

This season, Jesus is set to go to battle with his fellow South American Sergio Aguero at City
This season, Jesus is set to go to battle with his fellow South American Sergio Aguero at City

This season, Jesus is set to go to battle with his fellow South American Sergio Aguero at City

Aguero was the main man before Jesus turned up in Manchester, but that could now change
Aguero was the main man before Jesus turned up in Manchester, but that could now change

Aguero was the main man before Jesus turned up in Manchester, but that could now change

JESUS' CAREER SO FAR

2013-2016: Palmeiras

2017-present: Manchester City

2016-present: Brazil (senior team) 

Jesus will wear No 33 this season, the one he brought with him from Palmeiras and the one he hopes will be forever associated with whatever accomplishments lie ahead.

'The No 33 represents my own rise in football,' he said. 'It was the number of the first shirt that I wore at Palmeiras, so I feel a real affection for it.

'When you talk about the No 33 in football, I think most fans associate it with me, which is important to me. I think it's going to be very hard if I ever have to change.'

Jesus once said that 'a footballer must grow up faster than so many people' and he is an example of that. Certainly the expectation is high on one so young and so relatively inexperienced.

Jesus has a big affinity with the No 33, which he wore on the back of his first shirt at Palmeiras 
Jesus has a big affinity with the No 33, which he wore on the back of his first shirt at Palmeiras 

Jesus has a big affinity with the No 33, which he wore on the back of his first shirt at Palmeiras 

He is Brazil's No 9, and counts his fellow countryman - and football legend - Ronaldo as a friend
He is Brazil's No 9, and counts his fellow countryman - and football legend - Ronaldo as a friend

He is Brazil's No 9, and counts his fellow countryman - and football legend - Ronaldo as a friend

Film of him arriving at Manchester Airport last January shows a teenager swamped in a grey hoodie, eyes wide. At times it is hard to remember just how young some of our footballers are. But he says now that he has coped with it all well, even confident enough to offer comment on the traditionally sceptical outlook of residents of his adopted city.

'Arriving here was a new challenge in my life, a new battle, he said.

'From the moment I decided to play for City, I knew that it wasn't going to be at all easy. So I was calm when I arrived and there have been no great shocks. It's been as I expected.

'The weather is the biggest change, without a doubt. The climate's completely different. In fact, both the weather and the people are colder here. People in Brazil are happier, more joyous, whereas here people are a bit colder and less happy-go-lucky. This was the biggest change.'

Gabriel Jesus may have a point but he will know already that football has always done much to dictate the mood in Manchester, just as it has in Brazil.

He is perfectly placed to have a definitive impact on both.

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