Gabriel Jesus hit the ground running when he joined Manchester City. Still a teenager at the start of 2017, the striker made such an impression that for a while he was in the starting lineup and City legend Sergio Aguero was on the bench.
Five and a half years later, it is apparent that he has not become the long-term successor to Aguero, an impression reinforced by City's acquisition of Erling Haaland. And with the Norway international joining the club along with Argentine striker Julian Alvarez, Jesus is clearly concerned at being squeezed out of first-team action in the vital few months ahead of the World Cup. Jesus is set to move south to Arsenal with his career at the crossroads and with a key question hanging over him: what type of striker is he?
Back in 2017, it looked clear. He was a versatile and mobile operator capable of working all across the front line, but he was going to mature into a top-class centre-forward. At the time that he joined City, Jesus already appeared to be the solution to what had become a surprisingly long-term problem with the Brazilian national team. He was thrown into the deep end in World Cup qualification in September 2016 at centre-forward, won his debut game away to Ecuador and did not look back. He scored seven goals in nine World Cup qualifiers, grabbed the winner when Brazil played a warm up friendly away to Germany and went to Russia 2018 with an impressive record of nine goals in his first 15 games.
And then it all went wrong.
Jesus failed to score a single goal in Russia. Brazil has fielded much-maligned centre-forwards in the past -- Serginho in 1982 or Fred in 2014, for example. But at least they managed to get on the scoresheet. Coach Tite confessed that he wished he had made a change in the position during the competition. He should have brought in Roberto Firmino, he said, to replace Jesus. For the player, the 2018 World Cup left a trauma that remains to this day.
In those early days when he was banging in goals for his country, a comparison was made between Jesus and the original Brazilian Ronaldo. The source could not have been more authoritative; it was Ronaldo himself. Nowadays, it is not a comparison that anyone would make, which is not necessarily a criticism of Jesus.