Fernandinho has backed Gabriel Jesus to be a striking sensation on the world stage for years to come – having helped persuade him to reject Barcelona and Real Madrid for Manchester City.
The 19-year-old striker has become an instant hero at the Etihad, scoring three times in three games, following his £27 million arrival from Palmeiras last month.
His stunning exploits, which have seen Sergio Aguero relegated to the bench, came as no surprise to City and Brazil team-mate Fernandinho. Having witnessed the teenager’s quality and confidence at international level – where Jesus has four goals in six appearances – the midfielder revealed he offered advice when it came to deciding his future.
“I just asked him to choose City, to come,” said Fernandinho, a big hit himself at City since a £30m move from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2013. “I talked to him and was honest with him. A lot of big teams wanted to sign him, especially Barcelona and Real Madrid, and I told him, ‘look, you can take the team sheets of Barcelona and Madrid and see what player of 19 years old plays there in the starting 11?’”
“But you have Pep here at City and he loves to have young players in the team, to give this opportunity for young players and you will have the opportunity to play here. Maybe not in the starting 11 all the time, but to come on in the second half. He made his choice. I just talked to him as a friend.”
And Fernandinho is delighted at the start made by his friend.
“I’m not surprised because I knew him before he came to City, I played with him in the national team, I knew his quality,” he added.“I’m happy for him, he’s only been here a month and started to play very well. His performances show how good he is.”
How much better Jesus becomes remains to be seen, but already there are comparisons with compatriot Neymar Jr. Fernandinho, 31, believes he can shine like the Barca star, but added: “I think we just need to keep calm. Remember Gabriel is just 19 and at that age you have to be calm because things come so quickly it seems. But I expect him to improve a bit more.
“He’s in Europe just one month and it’s so so early to talk about comparisons, but for the next five, six, seven years he is going to be one of the best strikers in Europe for sure. He has that same quality.”
“He has already shown he can cope with the pressure. When you play as a number nine in the Brazilian national team, one of the most prestigious national teams in the world, one of the most prestigious positions, then you know you have something good.”
“I’m happy for him and hope he can keep that level and try to play the best football he can.”
After scoring both goals in the 2-1 win over Swansea that took City third in the Premier League, boss Pep Guardiola said Jesus had provided “joy” with his displays.
And a level-headed approach will be a factor too in his future progress as Fernandinho, whose side visit Bournemouth next on Monday, said: “His personality is like that, calm.
“He is clever also, intelligent and always wanting to learn and this is one of the most important things, to be a good person and consequently a good player.”
“That’s the best way to be a good player, not to put so much pressure on himself, but to play free as he was playing with his friends when he was 12, 13 years old. That’s how he plays. To play in attack is also easier than to play in defence or centre midfield, but to score goals as he is doing is good and I hope he can keep doing that.”
Our friends at Who Scored have taken a detailed look at goalkeeping statistics and rated the performances of the men behind the sticks.
And it’s not good news for highly-rated Southampton stopper Fraser Forster. The England international has clocked the lowest rating (6.23) due to the Red and Whites’ struggles in the Premier League.
But, the 28-year-old’s poor form will all be forgotten if he can produce a performance of merit in the EFL Cup Final against Manchester United later this month.
For most fans of the English top flight, the other four names in this list won’t come as a surprise.
Dropped Manchester City man Claudio Bravo has endured a miserable season while Loris Karius, David Marshall and Artur Boruc have all received widespread critics.
What do you make of the stats?
In many ways, it would make perfect sense for Antoine Griezmann to join Manchester United in the summer.
Firstly, he is exactly the kind of player United need.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic cannot go on forever, and the task of finding a world-class striker to serve as a long-term replacement for the brilliant yet ageing Swede must be among the biggest personnel priorities for the Old Trafford hierarchy.
Assuming he stays in charge, Jose Mourinho could not find a better player than Griezmann, whose versatility, pace and work ethic would fit perfectly with the style of player preferred by the Portuguese coach.
At 25, Griezmann is also at the right age, probably two or three years away from his peak, and the presence of his international teammate and close friend Paul Pogba would ease his settling-in process in Lancashire.
From the player’s point of view, at first glance United would also appear to be a sensible option.
As well as his current club Atletico Madrid have done in the last few years, it’s unlikely they’ll maintain those standards indefinitely, especially after manager Diego Simeone leaves, and they will never boast the same kind of global reputation and aura as United.
And, to be blunt, United would be prepared to pay Griezmann considerably more money than he will ever earn at Atletico, so the lure of cold hard cash is bound to be significant. But United fans shouldn’t start buying their ‘Griezmann 7’ shirts just yet, because none of the factors mentioned above mean that the striker actually will move to Old Trafford.
To really understand the potential of any such transfer, a closer look at the situation is required.
For starters, Atleti are in the middle of a transfer ban which would prevent them from signing any players this summer, meaning they could not recruit a replacement for Griezmann if he left.
Since the start of last season he has scored 47 goals with the club’s next highest scorer Fernando Torres on 17. That, in itself, is a major stumbling block in the suggestion the Frenchman will move to Manchester by July.
Although they are not as big and powerful as United, neither are Atletico so small that they would allow themselves to be bullied into selling their best player when they’re not even allowed to sign a replacement. That’s even more the case when you consider the fact that Atletico are finally due this summer to move into their long-awaited new stadium, where they will be desperate to sell tickets, hospitality and generally appease fans for the inconvenience of reaching a brand-new arena which does not yet have adequate rail or road links.
Selling Griezmann would hardly be a masterstroke in appeasement.
Griezmann’s future is also closely tied to that of his manager, Diego Simeone.
The striker is indebted to the Argentine coach for the impressive development he has made during their time together, and he will feel under heavy moral pressure to stay with Atletico until the end of Simeone’s cycle at the club.
That time is approaching, with Simeone having renegotiated his contract to reduce its expiry date by two years to the summer of 2018, giving a clear indication that he will be ready to leave the Rojiblancos – probably for Internazionale or the Argentine national team, or even both – around 18 months from now.
But Simeone has publicly said he wants to help Atletico through the process of their move to the Wanda Metropolitano and enjoy at least one year in the new surroundings, so the upheaval of his departure – which really will mark the end of an era – is unlikely to be as soon as this summer.
For a variety of reasons, then, Griezmann is likely to stay in Madrid until 2018. And by then, United may no longer need him because they could have signed someone else. Of course, it’s still possible he will end up at Old Trafford. But it’s nowhere near the ‘done deal’ that many people seem to believe.