Shirt numbers don’t always mean a lot. Asamoah Gyan, for instance, always wore the number three on his back despite being a forward. But there was a certain symbolism to Manchester City handing Gabriel Jesus the number nine shirt this summer.
Jesus has long been viewed as the next big thing at the Etihad Stadium, signed for £27 million (a fee that represented a massive investment in a teenager at the time) from Palmeiras as one for the future. Now, however, as the Brazilian enters his third season at the club he is expected to deliver.
This is why the award of the number nine shirt was significant. It shows that Pep Guardiola has faith in Jesus to become the striker City believed he would be. This could be the season in which he becomes the club’s main man, their primary centre forward to match the shirt number now on his back.
Jesus demonstrated during the Copa America for Brazil this summer that he can handle the pressure with being the main goal-getter for a frontrunner. Before this summer, Jesus had never actually scored for the Selecao at a major tournament, but he broke that duck and then some, leading Brazil to their first piece of silverware since the Confederations Cup six years ago.
Guardiola demands a lot of his centre forwards. We saw that at Barcelona, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic was cast aside after just one season at the Camp Nou. There were also suggestions at the start of Guardiola’s stint at Man City that Sergio Aguero would be sold as the Catalan wasn’t convinced he could perform the role he wanted from his centre forward.
This makes all the more impressive that Jesus has managed to stick around at the Etihad Stadium. Guardiola clearly has faith in the Brazilian and the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss is very rarely wrong about the potential of players.
Injuries have previously derailed Jesus’s challenge to become Man City’s centre forward, but now things finally seem to be falling into place for him. Aguero is still one of the best goalscorers in the European game, but there has long been a sense that Guardiola wants something a little bit different from the man leading the line. In Jesus, he might well have that and the Brazilian is ready to truly flourish.
How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.