Juan Jesus: Inter’s secret defensive weapon
At the inception of the 2012/13 season, Inter Milan’s new manager Andrea Stramaccioni hailed the arrival of 3 new defenders: Matias Silvestre, Jonathan Moreira(Loan returnee from Parma) and Alvaro Peireira, in a bid to fill in the gap created by Lucio (acquired by Juventus), Ivan Cordoba(retired at the end of last season), Maicon(sold to Man City) and Christian Chivu(long-term injury).
By this time, there was great doubt among Interisti on how the new young manager will create a solid defence since Walter Samuel, Nagatomo, Javier Zanetti and Andrea Rannochia were the only tested defenders, the latter having endured a series of questionable performances.
It didn’t take 3 weeks, after a couple of rotations in the defence line-ups, when Stramaccioni joined the growing list of Serie A managers who played a 3-man defence system. One man who has been a major contributor to the success of that formation (3-5-2), is Juan Guilherme Nunez Jesus, who stepped in to replace his childhood hero, Lucio. He will be the focus of this article.
Juan Jesus was born 21 years ago in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. He started his career in sport club Internacional youth club in 2007. He made his first team debut with the outfit in 2010 where he won the Copa Libertadores, Recopa Sudamericana and Gaucho 1. He started his international career with the U-20 side in 2011 as a winner of the U-20 Sudamericano in Peru and later the U-20 World Cup in Columbia. He was in the Brazilian football squad in London 2012 Olympics, returning with the silver medal in the competition.
His stellar performances at these tournaments and with these squads were not overlooked as it paved way for his invitation to the Brazil’s senior national team where he made his debut against Denmark on 26 May,2012. When the January transfer window opened, there was urgent need for a centre back since it was evident that Lucio may leave and that Cordoba was set to retire.
Huge credit goes to Nerazzurri’s head of technical staff, Marco Branca and President Massimo Moratti who worked tirelessly to secure the signature of Juan Jesus from Internacional on a 4 years contract worth £3.8M. He made his debut for Inter on 13 may 2012 against SS Lazio. Since the start of this season, he’s been a starter for Inter, fitting into the defence alongside Andrea Rannochia and Walter Samuel in a 3-5-2 system.
Statistics show that he is very strong in tackling, aerial duels and concentration. He is a defender with no significant weakness, who loves to dribble and feel comfortable with short passes. Out of his 9 appearances in Serie A this season, he has an average of 0.4 shots, 0.3 key passes, 0.6 dribbles, 0.6 fouls, and overall rating of 7.47 per game. He has also featured three times in Europa League this season with an overall rating of 6.95.
No wonder former Milan maestro, Alessandro Costacurta has spoken of his admiration for Juan Jesus after a Serie A game against Torino: “I thought he did very brilliant against Torino on Sunday night”, said the Milan legend. “This boy has also impressed for Brazil. He’s a really interesting player”.
After 12 games, Inter sits at 2nd place behind Juventus and still appear convincing enough to fight for the Scudetto – thanks to a new-found ‘Libero’, Juan Guilherme Nunes Jesus whose role at the heart of Nerazzurri’s defence shall be a major boost.
Written by Aniefiok Okon
Follow him on Twitter @soccerani
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