Joelinton, Newcastle's record signing, has raw skills to become their next great forward
Hoffenheim's business model has worked again. The modest German club have been experts of late in identifying and acquiring little-known Brazilian talent, developing it and selling it at a huge profit. It worked with Luiz Gustavo, Brazil's holding midfielder in the 2014 World Cup. It worked with Roberto Firmino, a virtual unknown transformed into Liverpool's star striker and the current national team No. 9.
Now it's worked again in 2019, with 22-year-old centre-forward Joelinton becoming the most expensive signing in Newcastle United history. His move, for a reported £40 million, fills the Hoffenheim coffers and provides a healthy windfall for the club in Brazil where he started his professional career.
Where he comes from
Joelinton arrives in the North-East of England, via his time in South-West Germany, from the North-East of Brazil. He began his career at his local club, Sport of Recife, a regional giant who in recent times have yo-yoed between Brazil's first and second divisions. He played just 12 first-division games for Sport before Hoffenheim swooped in, having seen enough, and took him across the Atlantic as a teenager in 2015.
The forward spent two seasons on loan in Austria with Rapid Vienna and was recalled to the Hoffenheim first team before the 2018-19 season. Following a campaign in the Bundesliga, with seven goals and five assists in 28 appearances, he now heads for the Premier League.
Strengths and style
It was easy to see why Hoffenheim were prepared to take a gamble on a teenager. His wiry frame was always likely to fill out and he's since developed into a player with the potential to become an all-round centre-forward capable of linking play, holding up possession, pressing from the front and getting into scoring positions.
Joelinton is not as physically imposing as the man he's been brought in to replace, Venezuela international Salomon Rondon, but he should be strong enough to take care of himself in the Premier League. Furthermore, his game is a blend of physique, mobility and technique. Naturally right footed, he is also comfortable on his left. He offers a threat in the air and can play all across the attacking third, surging from deep as well as operating as a penalty area target man.
Newcastle are essentially buying potential. Joelinton is a player with fewer than 50 senior goals to his credit. He managed 11 last season, seven of them in the league. He has the attributes to score more and be more decisive. Part of the package of his huge transfer fee is that goals are no longer a bonus; they're now expected.
Will this move prove too much for him? Will Joelinton be intimidated by the step up in quality and the expectations generated by wearing Alan Shearer's old No. 9 shirt?
The transition from Brazil to Europe is not easy, but he handled it with aplomb and has gained a reputation for doing well in big matches. One of his few first-division appearances in Brazil was when he came on as an early substitute in Rio de Janeiro's legendary Maracana stadium against local giants Flamengo.
It could have been daunting. Instead he seemed to relish the stage, stealing the show in a 2-2 draw through physique and technique, with plenty of confidence thrown in.
If he can star in the Maracana, he may well have what it takes to become a Tyneside hero.
Where is he heading?
Newcastle were the first English club to buy Brazilian when they signed striker Mirandinha back in 1987. They had spotted him playing for the national team and Joelinton is dreaming of pulling on the yellow shirt.
Centre-forward has been something of a problem position for Brazil of late and even when they won the recent Copa America, Brazil suffered from a lack of penalty area presence. Twice in six games, they were held to 0-0 draws. There is a need for a player of Joelinton's type even as an option off the bench, and the Premier League will give him a platform far bigger than anything Hoffenheim could manage.