Joelinton: Who is Hoffenheim's Brazilian striker looking to fill Roberto Firmino's shoes?
Joelinton is big, strong and he's enough to make opposition defenders go weak at the knees - but where has the "new Roberto Firmino" been hiding? bundesliga.com has the career skinny on Hoffenheim's burly Brazilian front man...
Country: Brazil (four U17 caps, two goals)
Given some of the Brazilians to have already passed through Hoffenheim – think Roberto Firmino and Luiz Gustavo – there was little surprise when the Sinsheimers dipped into the same market once again to bring a then 18-year-old Joelinton to the club in the summer of 2015.
Almost completely two-footed and standing at more than 6’2” tall, Joelinton already had Campeonato Pernambucano and Copa do Nordeste gongs in his trophy cabinet, but that wasn’t enough to save him from a loan spell with Rapid Vienna having made just a single appearance for Die Kraichgauer during his first season in Germany. Two years in Austria served him well, though, and after 21 goals in 79 games, and significantly more muscle mass, he returned in summer 2018.
Watch: Joelinton's top 5 Bundesliga goals
The results since have been phenomenal. Joelinton scored seven and assisted five in the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign before an ankle ligament problem curtailed his season and allowed striker partners Andrej Kramaric and Ishak Belfodil to surpass him as the club's deadliest outlet. Joelinton was sixth in the league for duels won (373), while also winning a club-high 75 in the air.
Plays a bit like: Roberto Firmino
To compare anybody to Firmino – a player who reinterpreted the role of a striker on the way to a UEFA Champions League title with Liverpool and over 30 senior Brazil caps – may seem far-fetched, but scratch the surface and there is more to the analogy than that the pair are Brazilians to have played up front for Hoffenheim.
Born in Maceio, a few hours down Brazil’s eastern coast from Recife, Firmino also took a while to get going in Sinsheim, taking six games to open his account with the club and only making five starts in his maiden Bundesliga campaign. Firmino’s touch may be slicker and frame slighter, but both men have blossomed into players completely adept in almost any position in the final third. And while they operate in a slightly different manner, both Joelinton and Firmino interpret their roles in their own brilliant and effective way.
Did you know?
Joelinton kick-started his Hoffenheim career with a hat-trick against Kaiserslautern in the DFB Cup and broke his Bundesliga duck not long after in a 1-1 draw with Borussia Dortmund.
He says Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski is the player he admires most, but defender Jerome Boateng - whom he faced on his full Bundesliga debut in August 2018 - is his toughest opponent to date.
"He's so big, so strong," the Brazilian said. "We're very similar."
What they're saying
"Joelinton was always very talented, but he's developed a lot during his time in Austria. He's a big guy and is awkward to defend against. He's very inquisitive and able to learn. He's become a very good player - he's a machine!" - Former Hoffenheim coach Julian Nagelsmann
"He's very curious, and always takes on board what you tell him. He's making rapid progress, he's only going to get better for us. - Hoffenheim captain Kevin Vogt
"We all knew about his potential at Rapid. He worked so hard for the team. Some said he didn’t score enough goals, but for us it was more important to have him in attack, holding the ball up, creating chances. He’s as strong as an ox and very good technically. If he keeps going as he is, he'll be playing for Brazil before long." - retired Rapid Vienna midfielder Steffen Hofmann
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