Pep Guardiola has challenged Gabriel Jesus to respond to the task of dislodging Sergio Aguero as Manchester City’s first-choice striker.
It was a mission Jesus revelled in immediately after his arrival in Manchester in January 2017, with City’s all-time top-scorer Aguero forced to bide his time on the bench in a number of high profile clashes – most notably a 2-1 derby win at Manchester United in December of that year.
But Aguero has knuckled down to adapt his game to Guardiola’s specific demands when it comes to centre-forward play and is thriving under the Catalan, as evidenced by his stunning opening goal in last week’s 2-1 win over Premier League leaders Liverpool.
By contrast, Jesus has struggled to hit top form after suffering a medial knee ligament injury midway through last season, and started each game for Brazil at the 2018 World Cup without finding the target.
The 21-year-old scored his eighth of 2018-19 in all competitions during Sunday’s 7-0 rout of Rotherham United in the FA Cup, but also missed several presentable chances.
Jesus could get another chance in Wednesday’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg against League One Burton Albion at the Etihad Stadium, with Guardiola reminding the former Palmeiras star his lot is that of many forwards at Europe’s elite clubs.
‘He competes with Sergio. In the big clubs, all the players compete with big [teammates], so it’s simple,’ the ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss told a news conference.
‘Always I take decisions [that are] the best for the team in the right moment. In part of our period together he played important games before Sergio because in that moment he was better than Sergio.
‘People were saying my relationship with Sergio was very bad, it was not correct, but I tried to be honest.
‘When I saw Gabriel in that moment he was playing more minutes and more important games than Sergio because in that moment I believed.
‘But I believe Sergio is an important player when fit, and [Jesus] has to fight to win his position.’
Aguero, 30, has 10 goals in 17 Premier League appearances this season and 14 in 22 across all competitions.