Gabriel Jesus may be a new signing for the Gunners, but he’s not exactly an unknown quantity having been a Premier League regular for five years already.
We’re all aware of his ability and trophy-laden career so far, but there’s so much more to know about our latest recruit. So here are nine things you might not know about Arsenal’s new number nine:
He used to play in a prison
A young Jesus began his football journey in an unusual setting – the grounds of a north Sao Paulo military prison. It was on the dirt pitches used by junior club Pequeninos do Meio Ambiente where Jesus would begin his footballing journey, admitting he would leave home at 5am to walk four miles to training in flip-flops because he couldn’t afford the bus fare – even more incredible that he did this between the ages of eight and 14.
Even with this incredible commitment to being a professional footballer, Jesus also kept up with his studies. His school reports of him labeled him as a bright pupil with an impeccable attendance record and passed his final exams with distinction. His former headteacher has suggested that a career in the sciences – particularly biology – could have been a viable option had football not worked out.
Dubbed the new Neymar
Thanks to his extraordinary goalscoring exploits for Palmeiras’ youth teams, the Brazilian media were quick to build up a 16-year-old Jesus, who was swiftly labeled the “the new Neymar”, who was flying high at Barcelona at the time.
By 2016 they were teammates in Brazil’s Olympics squad and marked the occasion by getting matching tattoos depicting a boy overlooking a favela, dreaming of becoming a footballer.
Jesus’ trademark phone celebration is a tribute to his mother Vera Lucia, who calls her son before every match he plays. As well as wishing him luck, she insists on checking that he has drank his usual banana and oat smoothie, a family recipe famed for avoiding stomach cramps while on the pitch.
Post-match, she is known to be his biggest critic, offering advice on how to avoid being offside and getting more shots on target.
Hotline to Ronaldo
Also on Jesus’ speed dial is Brazilian legend Ronaldo, who spotted his qualities as early as 2016, saying: “I see many similarities between us. He is young and is already very successful with a lot of responsibility. He is already delighting us with what he does.”
These days, the pair have struck up a friendship, with Jesus revealing: “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.”
In 2014 with Jesus starring for Palmeiras’ academy, and their first-team fighting against relegation, the clamor to unleash the teenage prodigy intensified so much that their fans started a petition to demand the young hotshot be given a chance. Managers Ricardo Gareca and Dorival Júnior resisted the temptation, but in less than two years following his debut, Jesus had helped transform his team from basement battlers to title winners.
Jesus grew up in Jardim Peri, a district of Sao Paulo, which ahead of the 2018 World Cup was given a makeover by adidas, who commissioned an artist to create a huge mural of Jesus performing his trademark celebration on the sides of buildings next to an adjacent pitch.
Jesus had previously posted a picture on Instagram of him painting the same streets in preparation for the previous World Cup four years earlier, which was held in his homeland.
Loves european nights
In a promising sign ahead of our upcoming Europa League campaign, Jesus has a prolific record in European football. He netted 20 times in 38 UEFA Champions League games for Manchester City, and overtook his friend Neymar’s record of becoming the fastest Brazilian to 10 goals in the competition aged just 22. In fact, none of his fellow countrymen with 10 or more appearances in the competition have bettered his 106 minutes per goal ratio.
48 hours after claiming his fourth Premier League title in dramatic circumstances in May, Jesus was celebrating again when his partner Raiane gave birth to their first child, a baby girl called Helena, making this a very busy summer indeed when you factor in his move to Emirates Stadium.
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