PROSPECT | Joelinton

Heading into the season, few could have predicted the impact forward Joelinton has made. Playing a key role in Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim team, the 22-year-old has been a pleasant surprise. Recently linked with a big money move to the Premier League, it’s time to take a look at the impressive Brazilian’s season so far.

Joining the club back in the summer of 2015 from Brazillian club Sport Recife, Joelinton was never considered a star in the making. Signed for a measly €2.2 million, the talented forward went under the radar of the bigger clubs. Scoring three goals in 12 games for Sport Recife in Brazil, he was seen by die Kraichgauer as a raw prospect with tons of untapped potential. The Brazilian striker would spend one season with the team before joining Rapid Wien on loan. Spending two years with the Austrian club, his loan spell was impressive, scoring 21 goals in 79 games.

Playing his way back into the Hoffenheim squad, Joelinton’s potential was still sky high. However, nobody saw this season coming. Returning from his loan last summer, Joelinton impressed the club with his pre-season performances. These outings led to more chances in the first team, including the DFB-Pokal. Announcing himself against Kaiserslautern, the 22-year-old pushed for more game time, scoring a hat-trick in a 6-1 win. Such performances led to the bulky striker playing a bigger role sooner than anyone expected, a decision Nagelsmann won’t be regretting anytime soon.

Joelinton is impressive in more than one way. Physically, technically and mentally, the Brazilian forward continues to impress on a weekly basis. Capable of playing with his back to goal, he can outmuscle his opposition, using his brute strength to hold the ball up. The likes of Kerem Demirbay, Andrej Kramarić and Nadim Amiri benefit greatly from his target man skill set. However, Joelinton is anything but one dimensional. Deceptively quick, the 6’3″ Brazilian covers a lot of ground, with his long strides a big problem for defenders. Ranking fourth in the Bundesliga with 314 duels won, his mix of strength and quickness make him a handful.

The relationship between player and manager has been key to Hoffenheim’s success this season. Taking the risk early on, Nagelsmann decided to throw his talented forward in at the deep end, with the risk worth the reward. Repaying his manager’s trust, Joelinton has now scored 10 goals and tallied nine assists in all competition, including a Champions League goal.

Nagelsmann has played a huge role, getting the most out of his rising star. Usually deploying the big Brazilian in a secondary striker role, Joelinton is one of the more unique forwards in the Bundesliga. At first glance, the tall, strong forward looks like a hold-up target man going forward, but Nagelsmann knows his prize asset is more than just a big man. Playing alongside Kramarić and Ishak Belfodil, Joelinton’s talents are evident on a weekly basis. Monday night’s 1-1 draw against RB Leipzig saw the Brazilian display all he has to offer. Holding the ball up, creating for others, starting counters and even tracking back at times, the former Sport Recife forward was making a statement.

In recent weeks, Hoffenheim’s star striker has been subject to massive bids from the Premier League. Costing Hoffenheim just over €2m, Joelinton has been linked with a move away from the club for €60m. Newcastle United are said to be just one of many clubs interested in Hoffenheim’s rising star.

Hoffenheim’s director of football Alexander Rosen recently responded to the rumours, saying “We have developed great strength to be able to say no, which we have proven in the past.” Clearly not keen on selling, Rosen also confirmed Newcastle aren’t the only team looking to acquire the talented Brazillian, he went on to say “To be honest, there is not one, there are not five, there are dozens of clubs that are interested him.”

In Nagelsmann’s final year with the club, the team’s goal is securing European football. Sitting eighth heading into Matchday 24, the team will rely on the likes of Joelinton, Demirbay and Florian Grillitsch to carry them into Europe, with all three linked a move to the Premier League. Whether or not Hoffenheim can fight off the big money teams is a problem for the summer, right now the clubs primary focus is finishing in a European place.

Nagelsmann was a young, unproven manager when given his chance. His decision to give Joelinton his chance was a game-changing move by one of the best young coaches in the world, as one of the best young forwards begins to shine.

By James Jukes.


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