Master­class

The Manch­ester City striker on stay­ing calm in front of goal, ton­ing down trick­ery and the need for speed

Australian Four Four Two - - CONTENTS - Gabriel Je­sus

Some of Brazil’s finest play­ers honed their skills out on the streets – were you the same?

Yes, street foot­ball helped me a lot when I was younger. I learnt tech­ni­cal skills in re­ally tight spa­ces, but I also learnt how to fight and bat­tle, which were equally im­por­tant. My ex­pe­ri­ences play­ing street foot­ball meant I was no longer afraid of fac­ing a tackle on the pitch. Some­times it was a bit dan­ger­ous, but it was worth it as I learnt to fight for what I wanted, and al­ways with hon­esty. When­ever I’m play­ing now, I can still feel the ben­e­fits of street foot­ball.

Who were your favourite Samba stars when you were growing up?

The play­ers I watched the most as a kid were Ron­aldo and Ronald­inho (be­low). I ob­vi­ously know Ro­mario as well from watch­ing lots of videos of him, and I still do that now and again. It’s just a shame for me that I wasn’t able to watch him play when he was at his peak, although I know how tal­ented he was. Brazil have pro­duced so many in­cred­i­ble at­tack­ing play­ers over the years, but those three are the ones I ad­mire. Those three play­ers were so re­laxed in the fi­nal third. How do you de­velop that calm­ness in pres­sure sit­u­a­tions? It’s hard to ex­plain that. I guess at­some point you kind of de­velop this qual­ity of be­ing calm. When I grad­u­ated from the Palmeiras youth team to the first team, I got so ner­vous in these sit­u­a­tions. I’ve man­aged to im­prove that, but I’m still young. Some­times I can stay calm and on other oc­ca­sions I can’t – it’s nor­mal. I’ll get bet­ter at this area of my game as I grow older and gain more ex­pe­ri­ence; you con­tinue to learn through­out your ca­reer. I don’t think it’s a qual­ity that all Brazil­ian play­ers pos­sess, though. There are many Brazil­ians play­ers who aren’t re­laxed in the fi­nal third!

In Brazil you would beat play­ers with tricks and flicks – have you changed since mov­ing to Eng­land?

From the mo­ment I started play­ing as a for­ward, I stopped drib­bling as much as I did on the flanks. I am much more di­rect these days and sim­ply try to get in the penalty box and score. When­ever I played out wide, I al­ways liked to cut in­side and do loads of stepovers. I still en­joy do­ing lots of tricks, but now I’m fo­cused on scor­ing goals be­cause that’s what wins matches. You’ve adapted to English foot­ball so quickly since join­ing Manch­ester City in 2017. Do you be­lieve it’s eas­ier to ad­just now due to the high num­ber of South Amer­i­cans there? I wouldn’t say that. I feel it’s more to do with my style of play, as I like to bat­tle, fight and give ev­ery­thing for every ball. These are the things that helped me the most when I joined City from Palmeiras. I al­ready had these char­ac­ter­is­tics when I was in Brazil so they were use­ful when I started play­ing in Eng­land, , where there is more con­tact com­pared to other Euro­pean coun­tries.

Pace is key to the way you play – can you be a top at­tacker in the mod­ern game with­out a quick pair of heels?

Good ques­tion. To o be hon­est, there are many at­tack­ing play­ers who aren’t that quick and they’re still able to score goals. It’s also true that foot­ball has changed a lot and the game now de­mands more from you. In the past, there were many play­ers who weren’t quick, but they were tech­ni­cally so good and clin­i­cal that they found the back of the net any­way. Nowa­days, I’d say it’s more dif­fi­cult for these strik­ers to reach the top, be­cause the de­fend­ers are also fast. I think you need speed to be a suc­cess­ful for­ward at the high­est level of the game.

Do to­day’s front­men also need to be able to play in sev­eral po­si­tions, and which is your favourite?

Def­i­nitely. I think this is very im­por­tant, be­cause for­ma­tions are more flex­i­ble in mod­ern foot­ball. It means you can end up play­ing in var­i­ous ar­eas of the fi­nal third, re­gard­less of your po­si­tion at the start of a match. It’s a great ad­van­tage for me to play in at least three dif­fer­ent po­si­tions – that can only be good for my de­vel­op­ment. I used to like play­ing out wide, but I’ve been play­ing as a striker with Brazil and City for over a year now and I’m re­ally en­joy­ing it – I see my­self as a striker at the mo­ment.

Should a for­ward go for place­ment or power when shoot­ing at goal?

It’s rel­a­tive, be­cause it de­pends on how you like shoot­ing in dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions. In my case, I pre­fer to go for ac­cu­racy rather than more power. I If you have the abil­ity to score with ac­cu­rate shots, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to blast the ball at the tar­get every time. The harder you kick it, the harder it is to be ac­cu­rate an and find the cor­ners of the goal goal. You are hop­ing that the speed of the ball will be enough to beat the keeper. Of course, there are a few oc­ca­sions when you’ve got to put some power on your shot to score. To do that you strike the ball us­ing your laces laces, although I per­son­ally pre­fer to use the in­side part of my feet when­ever I get a chance to pull the trig­ger.

“When I played out wide, I’d cut in­side and do lots of stepovers. I still en­joy do­ing tricks, but now I’m fo­cused on scor­ing goals”

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