Gabriel Jesus arrived on English shores as an unknown quantity in January 2017.
His Manchester City debut came in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in a game that will be remembered as two points dropped for a dominant side. The Brazilian was introduced to the City fan base from the bench and scored, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag.
Yet that was enough for City fans to be convinced the club had a star on is hands. The teenage sensation from Palmeiras brought energy and pace to an ageing side that, at that moment in time, were struggling to see out games against ‘top six’ opposition.
The cameo was exciting and his trademark ‘Alo Mae’ celebration was only put on hold for a game or two. A couple of weeks later, City faced West Ham United at the London Stadium.
The Brazilian netted his first goal and played a part by assisting another, as City comfortably dispatched of Bilic’s team. The next weekend, he made the headlines again for scoring a brace in a win over Swansea City at the Etihad, the second of which coming in the 92nd minute to win the game.
The national papers ran with headlines that played on Jesus and how he had come to City as a saviour; a second coming of Sergio Agüero who, according to some in the media, was struggling at City.
There was a forced narrative that the Argentine wasn’t capable of shining in a Pep Guardiola side and that he was unsettled under the Catalan.
Guardiola likes his strikers to contribute to several phases of play and he demands that forwards do much more than score goals.
Agüero is one of the best goalscorers in Premier League history – his record of 148 goals in 214 games is testament to that – but there were supposed doubts about whether he could live up to his manager’s demands.
Instead, it was believed Jesus was more suited to the system; he tracked back, he dropped deep to help the build-up, and he would pass for a tap-in rather than shoot when in the box. Agüero, according to critics, was not as complete.
And, in truth, it was hard to disagree. The Brazilian looked like he was ready to dislodge Agüero in the starting XI on a weekly basis and the departure of City’s No.10 seemed entirely conceivable.
Despite a broken foot injury that pretty much ended Jesus’ first season at the Etihad, he bounced back and started the next campaign in fine fettle. From the outset it felt like Agüero was second fiddle and the only chances he got were when Guardiola switched things up and played the duo as a pair.
Jesus, the perceived teacher’s pet, played the false nine role in away victories over Chelsea and Manchester United. Agüero was charged with watching on as his apparent successor overtook him in the pecking order.
Patronisingly, Agüero was told to learn from his teammate – a decade younger than him – despite becoming City’s all-time highest scorer in a historic win in Naples.
However, the Argentine bounced back and the tables have turned dramatically.
For one reason or another, Jesus has not been able to replicate the heights of his first full campaign in Manchester. The knee injury suffered at Crystal Palace may be a factor: the Brazilian was pictured with tears in his eyes with his heart set on the World Cup.
He returned, thankfully, but was extremely disappointing and failed to score in Russia despite being the number nine for the pre-tournament favourites.
As well as this, Jesus looks unsettled, which could be down to the fact his friends, who moved to Manchester with him, failed to renew their U.K visas.
But enough negativity. More than anything, an upturn in Agüero’s performances has been the reason the tables were turned.
“He [Agüero] is an authentic legend,” Guardiola said when his star striker penned a new deal that should mean he remains with City for a decade.
Despite a poor performance last time out at Anfield last Sunday, Agüero is playing the best football he has in years.
He looks as sharp he did when he first burst onto the European scene at Atlético Madrid and is as clinical as he was in City’s first Premier League title win, where we all know what happened.
His goal tally is now well into the 200s, with a hat-trick against Huddersfield Town being his standout moment of the season so far.
It has been a seismic turn of fortunes for Agüero who looked on his last legs in Manchester less than a year ago. It’s almost as if the form of Jesus gave him a much-needed kick.
For the first time in his City career, Agüero was second fiddle and this pressure helped him reach new heights and add new facets to his game.
City fans used to tune into dodgy Palmeiras streams in the early hours to watch the teenage sensation strut his stuff, but the now 21-year-old has failed to live up to his high standards in the past twelve months.
Jesus will be back but, for now, Agüero is the king of Manchester City’s forward line