Veteran Brazilian full-back Dani Alves has proclaimed Manchester City forward and international team-mate Gabriel Jesus to be “the new Ronaldo” ahead of the Seleção‘s prestige friendly against England at Wembley.
“I wasn’t joking when I called Gabriel the new Ronaldo,” the 34-year-old Paris Saint-Germain right-back said. “They have a similar drive. He’s already great, and will get even better.
“For all that he’s done, all that he has achieved, there is no pressure on Gabriel. He’s doing what he loves.”
As a young Brazilian forward, there is no higher praise than being compared to the legendary former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid striker, whose goals powered Brazil to their fifth World Cup triumph in 2002.
But does the comparison fit? Jesus is a fine young prospect who has earned plaudits for his displays and goal-scoring touch since joining City in January, but Ronaldo ‘Fenomeno‘ is an all-time great.
Here, we analyse the pair, juxtaposing 20-year-old Jesus with Ronaldo at the same age to see who as the edge.
Jesus vs Ronaldo: Playing Style
Ronaldo’s career was forever changed by a string of serious knee injuries in the late 1990s and early 2000s following his world-record move to Inter Milan in 1997.
The injuries would ultimately rob the great man of some of his blistering pace and dynamic dribbling ability, forcing him to reinvent himself as more of a conventional No.9, playing on the shoulder of the opposition’s defence and focussing on his precise timing and deadly finishing.
But at 20, he was in prime physical condition, lightening fast with stunning close control, vision and quick feet.
His highlight reel of goals from this era stands up against any player in history, with stunning dribbles past multiple opponents, rasping long-range efforts and inventive finishes from close range.
Jesus, if anything, is closer in style to latter-stage Ronaldo: the City forward is a confident and creative finisher with either foot, and has a remarkable knack for finding space inside the penalty area.
Though skilled and a fine dribbler, he cannot match Ronaldo in this aspect of his game, but he is comparatively clinical and has the confidence to lead the line for an elite side.
Jesus vs Ronaldo: Goals
Jesus will turn 21 in April of this season; Ronaldo celebrated his 21st birthday during his first season with Inter Milan, 1997/98.
The year before he’d enjoyed arguably the most spectacular campaign of his career in his first and only season with Barcelona, in which he netted a staggering 47 goals in 49 games, firing Bobby Robson’s Blaugrana to success in the Cup Winners’ Cup and the Copa del Rey.
By the end of that 1997/98 season, in which he scored 34 times in 47 outings for Inter, Ronaldo had accumulated a career total of 179 goals in just 200 appearances, across spells with Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona and the Nerazzurri.
On the international stage, by the end of 1996, the year he turned 20, Ronaldo had nine goals from 16 caps, with his Brazil form sky-rocketing the following year with another 15 goals from 20 appearances.
Jesus has only played 110 senior club games to date, with 83 for Palmeiras and just 27 for City. In those games he has scored a total of 44 goals – 28 for the Brazilian club and 16 for City.
Less experienced than Ronaldo at the same age, Jesus’ goals-per-game ratio of 0.4 is behind Ronaldo’s (0.9), but he is proving prolific at the Etihad and will begin to narrow the gap in time.
With Brazil, Jesus’ record of seven goals from 12 caps puts him well within reach of what Ronaldo achieved at the same age.
Jesus vs Ronaldo: Honours
The 20-year-old striker is yet to get his hands on any major silverware with City. But that will surely change this season, as Pep Guardiola’s side have taken a commanding lead in the Premier League title race and look genuine contenders in the Champions League.
With Palmeiras, Jesus was a key part of a Campeonato Brasileiro-winning side in 2016, and he also has a Copa do Brasil medal from 2015 and Olympic gold with Brazil from the Rio Games.
Individually, Jesus was voted the best newcomer in Brazil in 2015, and the best overall player the year after.
By the end of the season in which he turned 21, Ronaldo’s trophy cabinet was stacked, with winners’ medals from the Campeonato Mineiro, the Copa do Brasil, the KNVB Cup, the Copa del Rey, the Cup Winners’ Cup, the Spanish Super Cup, the UEFA Cup, the 1994 World Cup – although he was an unused substitute in the USA – and the 1997 Copa América.
On an individual level, he’d collected his first of three World Player of the Year Awards and one of two Ballon d’Ors, as well as innumerable top scorer and best player gongs from Brazil, Holland, Spain and Italy.
Jesus is unquestionably an outstanding talent destined for world-class status, but the comparisons to Ronaldo do the City striker few favours.
The youngster is well on course to carve out his own legacy at club and international level: the first Gabriel Jesus, rather than ‘the new Ronaldo’.