Would Man City be mad to sell Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal?

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Gabriel Jesus Manchester City 2022Getty Images

No Brazilian has more goals per minute in the Champions League than Gabriel Jesus.

Not Neymar. Not even the original Ronaldo. Nor Romario, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo or Kaka, for that matter.

And no Brazilian has a better goals per minutes ratio in the Premier League either, with Jesus ahead of players such as Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Robinho.

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So in a week where he scored five times to keep Manchester City's challenge for a Champions League and Premier League double alive, it seems crazy that the club would consider allowing him to leave.

Against Watford on Saturday, he was clinical, netting with three instinctive finishes and a penalty to keep the Premier League leaders a point clear at the top of the table.

In midweek against Real Madrid, meanwhile, his performance was even more impressive, as he terrorised David Alaba and Eder Militao with the intensity and pressing that Pep Guardiola loves.

And when an early opportunity presented itself, he kept his cool to turn and slot his shot past Thibaut Courtois.

Add in his goal in the massive Premier League clash against Liverpool earlier this month, and Guardiola has turned to Jesus for arguably the two biggest games of City's season, and the forward has responded.

As a snapshot of his season, it portrays a key figure delivering for one of the best teams in the world.

But zoom out and the picture becomes a little more distorted, as a player that is often on the periphery starts to emerge.

In a team that is without the central striker that Guardiola spent all last summer searching for, Jesus has only seven Premier League goals this season, including those four against Watford – fewer than five of his team-mates.

And his recall for the game against Liverpool in April was his first Premier League start in 2022, while the victory over Real Madrid was just his second Champions League start all season – the other being in the last-16 second leg against Sporting CP when the tie was effectively over with City 5-0 up from the meeting in Lisbon.

Zoom out even further, and you find a player that has not started for Brazil in any of their last five matches, including when he was missing from the Selecao's squad altogether for their recent World Cup qualifiers against Chile and Bolivia.

His club future will prompt some soul-searching, but for a 25-year-old who is six months away from Qatar 2022, it is a frightening prospect that he might not be part of Tite's roster.

To prove himself for his country, Jesus needs game time, but he has not been able to nail down a regular starting role at City.

It was not easy when he first moved to the Etihad Stadium as a raw, exciting teenager from Palmeiras in January 2017, when he was competing directly with Sergio Aguero, the club's greatest ever goalscorer.

Gabriel Jesus Brazil GFX
Getty/GOAL

And it will be no easier next season, with the added competition from Argentina international Julian Alvarez and the probable arrival of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland.

But in the space in between, Jesus has still more often than not found himself on the outside looking in, which is why he is understandably considering his future.

Arsenal and Barcelona have been linked with a move for him, and GOAL has learned that his agent, Paulo Pitombeira, has met with Arsenal technical director Edu to discuss a possible deal this summer.

For now, Jesus' focus remains on the hunt for silverware with City as another big week looms on the horizon, starting with a huge Premier League clash at Leeds on Saturday, followed by a tantalising second leg in Madrid.

"It's not time to think about this," he told reporters about the links to Arsenal. "I think you expect me to say this, but it's true, it is, this is no time to think about this.

"Now is the best moment of the season. I want to enjoy it, to keep focused on my team, with my team-mates, to fight for the Premier League."

But with just 12 months remaining on his contract, a decision on Jesus' future cannot be put on hold for too long.

From City's point of view, they have a number of other senior players with contracts running into their final year, with deals for Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez all expiring in the summer of 2023.

Jesus is the most likely of the group that they can cash in on this summer, although Guardiola shows no signs of wanting him to leave.

“Gabriel is our player. He belongs to Manchester City," the City boss said last Saturday. “If there is one person in world football that deserves days like Gabriel had [against Watford], then it is him.

"We are delighted – he helped us a lot, as he always does.”

But the power is with Jesus. He has already seen his friend and mentor Fernandinho announce that he will leave at the end of the season in a bid to continue his own playing career after also becoming a bit-part player at the Etihad Stadium, and Jesus could follow suit.

Arsenal have shown an interest, and Mikel Arteta is a coach that Jesus knows well from his days as Guardiola's assistant.

Moving, though, would be the biggest decision of Jesus' career to date, and while Guardiola and City would love to keep him, they may be powerless to stop him from walking through the exit doors.