Player Insights: Joelinton

In this sixth edition of ‘Player Insights’ we will be taking a detailed look at our most expensive, yet currently misfiring centre forward, Joelinton.

Early Career

Joelinton grew up in a small single story house in the North East of Brazil in a small town of 35,000 people called Alicina. Here, he shared a bedroom with his sister while his Mother and Father worked hard to provide for the family. In a recent interview Joelinton reminisced about his childhood memories, with a huge emphasis placed on his enjoyment at playing football. He talked about playing on a pitch that would sometimes have bulls wondering in from nearby fields, and explained his misery when his Mother would ban him from playing football if his school grades ever fell.

At 14, Joelinton left his hometown, and moved into Sport Recife academy 50 miles from home. He was part of this youth system for 2 years, until he got promoted to the senior team in 2013. The Brazilian center forward then endured a 2 year stint on the bench for Sport Recife, making occasional substitute appearance. He put together a string of appearances towards the end of the 2014 season for the club, in which he scored his first senior goal in a 2-2 draw with Fluminese. The turning point however for Joelinton, perhaps came on the last day of the season as his goal secured all 3 points for the team in a 1-0 win against Sao Paulo.

Hoffenheim saw the rough, unpolished talent in Joelinton and signed him on a 5 year contract in 2015. For the first year in this spell he only played 1 time all season, totaling a total of 4 minutes as a substitute. The club then opted to loan out their long-term signing to Austrian club Rapid Vienna, which saw his career truly burst into light.

The striker starred heavily in the Austrian clubs cup run, netting his debut in a 3-1 win in the first round, before adding further to his tally in the last minute of the semi-final to ensure he dragged the club to the final. In the final match, Rapid Vienna were matched up against FC Red Bull Salzburg in what would prove to be a step too far, ultimately losing 1-2 after Joelinton had provided the goal to equalize. The silverware was not added to Joelinton’s CV, however his reputation had certainly grown. 

While part of the Rapid Vienna squad, Joelinton was introduced to Pope Francis at the Vatican, alongside the rest of the squad. When exchanging some words Joelinton asked for a hug, which was duly accepted. This act goes some way in describing the character of this player, standing at 6’1 he is often perceived as a gentle and caring character.

Joelinton with highly regarded ex-Hoffenheim manager Julian Nagelsman

Following on from this loan spell Joelinton returned to his parent club Hoffenheim and made an instant impact, again in the cup competition, scoring a hatrick on his debut. Throughout the rest of his Hoffenheim Joeliton played more of a ‘supportive striker’ showing great passages of link-up play and technical ability. Alongside this he also added 7 goals in 29 appearances for the German club, scoring noticeable goals against Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga and against Lyon in the Champions league. 

Following this impressive campaign, he was snapped up as one on Steve Bruce’s first Newcastle signing in 2019, as part of a record signing deal being handed the privilege and pressure of the number 9 shirt.

Life at Newcastle

Joelintons’s arrival at St James Park was met with a lot of anticipation, and expectation due to the fee that had been paid. The club record signing was accompanied on the books by a very short list of alternatives; Dwight Gayle returning from a loan spell in the Championship, Yoshinori Muto who for some reason has underwhelmed in his time in the North East, and newly signed Andy Carroll which everybody could see would spend half the season in the medical room. Add this lack of options to the departure of the clubs top-scorer and main attacking focal point, Salomon Rondon, there was simply no time to slowly integrate the young center forward, he needed to make an instant impact.

I remember watching the debut vs Arsenal on the first day of the season, a match which Newcastle lost 0-1. It was not a terrible performance by Joelinton by any stretch, but the initial signs where there to see, that he was not an out-and-out striker, and by no means equipped to take over the role of Rondon. The way in which Newcastle excelled, specifically towards the end of last season, in which we were the fifth highest goalscorers, was with Rondon playing with his back to goal, allowing him to bring others into play specifically Almiron and Perez, while holding up the ball well and being clinical inside the opposing penalty box. Joelinton on the other hand looked a nervy player who wanted to pick the ball up deeper and create chances for his team.

The striker struggled for the following month, although showing glimpses of promise it was not until the match away at Tottenham that Joelinton got his first goal for the club. This came after a precise long ball from Atsu that eliminated the spurs defenders, allowing Joelinton to take a touch and fire past the onrushing goalkeeper and World Cup winning captain, Hugo Lloirs. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, this would be the start of a long goal drought across all competitions, only ending 5 months later in a 4-1 FA Cup victory over Rochdale, in which the Brazilian added to the scoreline towards the end of the game.

In my opinion Joelinton is not a bad player, perhaps not a £40 million player but definitely not a bad player. I believe the price tag has added substantial expectation to the player, and the tactics has forced him to be a square peg in a round hole. I do admire his attitude and work rate, with the striker not giving up after enduring a fairly torrid debut season so far. If the price tag was lower and Joelinton was allowed the opportunity to be slowly integrated into a well-functioning team playing to his strengths I think we would be seeing a different player, however this is Newcastle United and not everything is so black and white.

What the future may hold

I go into most matches thinking this could be the one which ignites Joelinton’s Newcastle United career, however always feel slightly underwhelmed. I do believe this match will come and we will see a much better player leading our front line. I think a change of tactics could be the ignition which the Brazilian striker desperately needs to help him to flourish in the same manner he did at Hoffenheim. The recent performance away at West Brom, in which Steve Bruce deployed a more attacking, 4-2-3-1 formation suited the playing style of Joelinton, with more bodies closer to him. I really hope Joelinton experiences a turning point in his career sooner, rather than later, both for himself personally, and for the club as a whole. Let’s hope today’s match, away at St Marys provides that opportunity for the down to earth, clearly talented, and caring youngster.

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