Reinier Jesus turned 18 years old on January 19th. The next day, he officially signed for Real Madrid. Not bad. If you’re a Real Madrid fan, than you had likely already seen the rumors and witnessed the countless video montages doing the rounds on social media. Like most Madridista’s not based in Brazil and not following Brazilian club Flamengo, there is likely very little understanding of the type of player Real Madrid just signed. That’s about to change.
Let’s start with where Reinier Jesus feels most comfortable on the pitch. There have been parallels to Kaka, but those parallels are not fully merited other than the fact that they share the same position. Reinier Jesus operates best in a central attacking midfield role or a “#10”. Sadly for many talented attacking midfielders, that position has filtered its way out of the modern game, but Reinier is equally adept at playing in any of the front three spots in a 4-3-3: the left wing, right wing, or as a pure striker. He has featured in each of these spots for Flamengo at some point or another.
The first thing one notices when watching Reinier Jesus play is his physical attributes. At his young age, he is already 6 foot and 2-inches tall (1.88 meters) and possesses power and pace rather than pure quickness – his physical skill set is somewhat similar to Theo Hernandez. He’s not a pacey, tricky winger. Instead, he has long legs, much like Fede Valverde, which allow him to make up a lot of ground. Try envisioning a more offensive minded and elegant Arturo Vidal. Now envision Arturo Vidal with Brazilian flair and the added ability to beat a player on the dribble.
Because of his physique and athleticism, he is strong in the air. He is a very opportunistic player when the ball gets into the box and scored one of his best goals of the season against Bahia with a snap header.
What came as a surprise watching him for Flamengo in the Brazilian Serie A, was his hunger in the box. Reinier is always willing to make the run and get himself into dangerous positions. He has a cannon of a shot from outside the box, which he normally gets on target. There are natural goal-scoring instincts in his play and an incredible eye for goal. His profile has been lacking from the Madrid squad, only James Rodriguez has similar goal-scoring characteristics.
Andre Noruega, a Brazilian youth football scout, described RJ as a play maker with the ability to score goals from outside the box and an eye for the killer pass. “Reinier Jesus is a very creative #10 type play maker, but he could also play as a shadow striker due to his good movement and his impressive long distance shot. There is little doubt to what I like the most about this player - and that is his ability to play pin-point through balls. His passes make it through impossibly tight angles.”
Like any good Brazilian, he wants the ball at his feet – to combine and connect; “joga bonito”, play beautiful. He will adapt to the European game simply because his quickness of thought is already at a high level. Oftentimes, it’s the speed of the European game, the speed at which players think, which takes foreigners and those from other leagues time to adjust to when coming over to Europe. That should not be the case for Reinier Jesus, he loves to perform quick one-two interchanges at the top of the box to break down a defense and slip either his teammate or himself through on goal.
Blaise Bourgeois, a Flamengo supporter and editor at One Football, described his ability around the box: “He always knows what his next move should be. He’s very creative and has a touch like a futevolei (beach football) player. Reinier Jesus loves being on the end of a good piece of interplay. He has that ability to draw multiple players close to him due to his speed and strength, which then allows him to create opportunities through the open space for his teammates”.
His best and most productive games arguably came as a “shadow striker” for Flamengo. The now 18-year-old is difficult for any defense to mark as he feels comfortable with his back to goal, making runs in behind to stretch a back line, or dropping deeper to drift between the lines and pick a pass, or even turn and run at a retreating defense. His versatility is one of his greatest assets.
But, like with any young player, there is always areas to improve. Zach Lowly of Breaking the Lines, points to the Brazilian’s decision making. “Reinier Jesus is a really talented play maker who knows how to pick pockets of space and score from outside the box. Though, I do think he needs to improve on his decision-making and be a bit more efficient to cope at the top level with Real Madrid”.
It was a similar type of critique from Andre Noreuga, “He can improve his decision making – sometimes do it a bit more simple than spectacular, but even that is not a negative – I applaud a young player who tries to pull off the impossible”.
As testament to the accuracy of the above opinions, DataBHJ, pulled together the statistics on Reinier’s game from Wyscout and compared the youngster against other U21 players in the top 5 South American leagues:
Reinier Jesus— DB (@DatoBHJ) January 3, 2020
Pretty decent numbers considering he’s only 17 kid. pic.twitter.com/3cgiXPtuU0
His xG and xA numbers are remarkably high for a then 17-year-old kid. Though, his decision making still can improve as testament to his lower scores in progressive passes, dribbles, and pass accuracy.
So in the end, is it worth it to pay €30 million for a teenager with only a handful of senior level performances? Take it from Blaise Bourgeois, who has been following the player for years, “€30m is a scam. He is worth €70, €80, maybe even €100 million. I am still in shock that the Flamengo board would even allow that kind of clause in his deal”.
Flamengo’s coach, Jorge Jesus – the former Benfica and Sporting manager, said something similar, “You can’t sell a player like Reinier for €30 million! At Benfica, players would be sold for more than they were actually worth. Flamengo doesn’t know how to price their players on their true value,” he told CMTV and later reported by AS.
Much like any young player, patience will be key. Martin Odegaard is the most recent example of this philosophy of patience. But, Real Madrid fans can certainly be excited for the prospect they have secured – Reinier Jesus has the potential to one day make a major impact at Real Madrid.