While Gabriel Jesus is a surprise to the English, those who have been watching the Brazilian before knew the forward was ready to take the world by storm
Manchester City’s new superstar, Gabriel Jesus, is no stranger to pressure.
The 19-year-old got off to a flying start in the Premier League, contributing three goals and two assists in just three appearances. The English press are already crazy about Gabriel, a new discovery for them, but those who followed his emergence over the past two years are not surprised with the level he is now showing. But the youngster had to overcome many challenges before earning his transfer to Manchester City.
At the age of 16, Gabriel was already the top scorer for Palmeiras’ youth team, ending the 2013 season with 54 goals in 48 matches. The attacker continued his impressive run the following year, which led to his promotion to the first team. On 7 March 2015, he made his professional debut and slowly cemented his starting position as the days passed.
In May 2015, Brazil under-20 coach Rogerio Micale selected the forward for the World Cup in New Zealand. Gabriel was Brazil’s best player throughout the whole tournament, and led his country to the final, although a late goal in extra time, meant that Serbia would eventually lift the trophy. Despite the failure to bring home the gold, Gabriel had caught the eye of everyone who followed Brazil’s journey. Deployed as right winger, he excelled with his dribbles, sparkling runs and clever plays – earning him comparisons with Neymar and Robinho.
At club level, Marcelo Oliveira used Gabriel on the left flank. He ended the season with seven goals, playing an important role in helping the Verdao clinch the Brazilian Cup, meaning the Paulista side would experience Libertadores action the following year. Although Palmeiras were eliminated from the group stage, Gabriel scored four goals in five games in the hardest championship in South America. The results weren’t going in Oliveira’s favor, as Cuca succeeded him in March 2016. The tactician decided to switch Gabriel to a more central role.
Jesus thrived in his new position and ended the year with 31 goals and eight assists, helping Palmeiras win their first league title since 1994, and Brazil win the Olympic games for the first time in history. After visa problems prevented him from joining Dunga’s Brazil for Copa America in June, new manager Tite decided to give him his senior debut away to Ecuador, on July 2.
The pressure was massive on Brazil, who were in danger of missing a ticket to the World Cup. Despite the game being played at high altitude in Quito, Gabriel was the star, winning a penalty and scoring two superb goals to earn his country a 3-0 win. Jesus went on to finish the year as Brazil’s leading goalscorer with five goals and four assists in six games, lifting them from 6th position, to topping the table. His link-up with Neymar and Coutinho has been nothing short of brilliant.
Meanwhile, in the most important league games at home to vice-leaders Flamengo, and away to title contenders Atletico Mineiro, Gabriel scored Palmeiras’ only goals, earning them precious points in the process of claiming the title.
Despite his tendency to lose his temper all too quickly and argue with referees, Gabriel always delivers in the big games and is resilient under pressure. It was no different when he had big shoes to fill, after Guardiola favored him over club-legend Kun Aguero over the past few games.
The rising star has made it clear in several interviews that he has the ambition to become one of the best players in the world. Will the Spanish tactician help him fulfill his potential?