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Gabriel Jesus Reveals Why He Left Manchester City: The Pep Guardiola Decision That Left Him in Tears

In a candid interview, the Brazilian striker detailed the moment he knew his time with the Citizens was over.  

By Andrew Woodin
Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City speaks to Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City during a Premier League match

No matter how you slice it, Gabriel Jesus is a phenomenal talent. Wherever his career has taken him, according to The Guardian, he’s produced roughly one goal every three games. When it comes to his 159 appearances for Manchester City the gifted Brazilian forward netted 58 goals and recorded 29 assists to give him a goal involvement basically every other game.

While that’s a feat in itself for most strikers, even more impressive is his rate of a goal every 160 minutes (with a minimum of 15 goals) since entering the league. That positions him seventh among the top-performing Premier League snipers, including such elite company as Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo, according to Sky Sports.

And yet, despite his accomplishments on the pitch, he’s a bit of a conundrum, vulnerable to spells of shaky confidence.

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“When I’m not happy with me I want to shoot myself in the head because it's difficult,” Jesus revealed to Goal in 2019. “I take it [personally]. I think, ‘Oh my god, I have to score, I have to score, I have to score.’ When I have the chance, sometimes I miss because I think too much and put too much pressure on myself. I try. I'm getting better. I’m working to score and don’t think about the pressure.”

Whether it was due to that pressure or not, though he quantifiably found success converting chances for the Citizens, he also didn't quite fit seamlessly into Pep Guardiola’s scheme as a natural striker.

Gabriel Jesus of Arsenal races down the field against Ruben Neves of Wolves during the Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers

“In my mind, I was always more of a winger than a forward,” explained Jesus, who honed his skills on the pebble-peppered dirt pitches of São Paulo, according to Forbes. "I think that with my qualities, I help more from the wing than from the center. I’ve been playing like this for the national team since the Copa America.”

Now, coming off his first year for the Gunners whose late-season skid allowed a surging Manchester City to capture the Premier League title en route to a historic Treble (including the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup), Jesus, despite having to watch his former squad garner such triumphant success, is more centered and in tune with his identity as a player. And with his confidence restored, Jesus is reflecting on the end of his time at Manchester City, including the moment he knew it was time to move on. That time? None other than when, according to Jesus, Guardiola denied him a starting lineup spot in a Champions League game.   

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In an interview on the Denilson Show podcast, according to ESPN, Jesus pointed to Man City’s home match against Paris Saint-Germain in November 2021 where he was benched as the tipping point in his career with the Citizens.

"There was a Champions League game, PSG, at home, in which he put [Oleksandr] Zinchenko as a false 9. Crazy thing," recalled Jesus, especially considering Zinchenko's favored position was at left back. "The day before, he didn't even use [Zinchenko] in training, he had put me in as a striker. ... Zinchenko even joked with me, ‘That day, I felt bad for you.’”

"Two hours before the game, there's a team talk, the team eats, rests for 30 minutes and goes to the game,” Jesus continued. “He [Guardiola] told us the team, I didn't even eat. I went straight to the room, crying, I called my mother to talk, ‘I want to leave.’ I'm going home, because he put [Zinchenko] on, and he didn't put me on. He put a left back there. I went crazy."

In a serendipitous stroke of fate, Jesus replaced the Ukrainian in the second half, impacting the match from the moment he stepped onto the pitch. The Brazilian went on to setup the equalizer, followed by scoring the game winner to lift City to a 2-1 victory.

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"I didn't warm up," added Jesus. "I felt bad. Five minutes after [Kylian] Mbappe scored the goal for 1-0, [Guardiola] called me. I gave an assist and scored; we turned it around 2-1. In the next [Champions League] game [a 2-1 win at RB Leipzig], I thought I was going to play, and I didn't play.”

"There was a lot of that with him [Guardiola], and it's not easy, but one [player] evolves,” he revealed. “It is really hard. That's when I decided, I didn't want to stay anymore, and I decided to leave."

After winning 11 trophies during his time with Man City, finishing as the runners-up to City undoubtedly had to leave a sour taste in his mouth. The next challenge for the 26-year-old is channeling that disappointment and building on the success that he found in his debut season for Arsenal that saw him score 11 goals and create seven more in 26 EPL matches. After all, he and the Gunners have some unfinished business.

Watch the 2023 Premier League Summer Series on Peacock, running from July 22 through July 30.

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