22-year-old Joelinton faces a ton of external pressure as a striker from the hallowed South American beaches of Brazil like many of the world’s greatest before him. He is also a young Brazilian attacker at Hoffenheim in a world where Roberto Firmino has gone from strength to strength as a little-known Brazilian attacker since leaving Sinsheim. He was lucky to develop under the developmental and restorative powers of Julian Nagelsmann who has a fountain of profligacy in front of goal for strikers who play under him. He did not reach double figures under the young coach but his ability as an all-rounder did earn him some plaudits in his first season in the Bundesliga.
Hoffenheim’s success with Firmino spurred Director of Football, Alexander Rosen into signing little known Brazilians for measly fees while patiently giving them time to develop in their youth teams or out on loan before promoting them to their first team. Brazilian defender, Lucas Ribeiro joined Hoffenheim in January at the tender age of 20 as he will take on the mantle of Joelinton. The strapping Brazilian striker was sent on loan to Rapid Wien in 2016 as he is yet to reach double figures in goals during a League season in his career. Nagelsmann has juggled strikers at Hoffenheim as Sandro Wagner, Mark Uth and Serge Gnabry have all left after improving massively while Andrej Kramaric and Ishak Belfodil have developed their goalscoring prowess and their ability as all-rounders.
The 32-year-old manager entrusted Joelinton with a starting role at the beginning of the season against Bayern Munich as it was obvious that he had talent, but he would take time to adjust to his teammates. He sent an opportunity from point blank range wide but his ability to use his chiselled physique to hold up the ball well while also charging around in the pressing phase to win possession endeared him to Nagelsmann. In a home match against Borussia Dortmund, a Joshua Brenet cross was cleared into the path of the Brazilian to finish with aplomb and open the scoring.
His ability to gel with teammates and selflessness earned him a permanent starting role while he provides a factor of danger aerially and with his feet in the box. Pavel Kaderabek chipped a cross for Joelinton to head past Lucas Hradecky at home to Bayer Leverkusen as him and Arsenal loanee Reiss Nelson chipped in with the goals as Hoffenheim deployed two strikers who were not with the team the season before. Joelinton then burst past his man and drove into the box to bait Jonathan Tah into fouling him as he earned a penalty that Vincenzo Grifo despatched.
Few would expect a player with such lumbering size to be light on his feet but Joelinton’s muscle and quick feet allow him to drop deeper, receive passes and work them into teammates while he has the creativity and vision to play through balls. This allows him to be a counter attacking conduit as he has a beguiling turn of pace to outmuscle opponents and leave them in his tracks. At home to Bayern Munich, he threaded a through ball for fellow Brazilian, Leonardo Bittencourt on the counter for the former Borussia Dortmund player to chip for current Dortmund player Nico Schulz to take a touch and volley past Manuel Neuer.
He is a mobile force, constantly hustling and harrying opponents in the press while he is well-schooled at dropping into Hoffenheim’s zonal 5-3-2 defensive shape while he can latch onto loose balls as he did away to Freiburg to score. If Nagelsmann switched to a back four, he frequently used Joelinton as an attacking midfielder who would use his strength to outmuscle the opposition defensive midfielder and connect play in the final third. The Brazilian would also connect play in the half-spaces working one or two touch passing moves with the wing-back while cutting inside from the wide positions to work shooting opportunities.
Joelinton’s constant grind in the deeper areas of the pitch is not to the detriment of his goals as his lack of goals can be attached to him being wasteful in front of goal. At only 22-years-old and in his first Bundesliga season, he had opportunities like a rebound against Hannover which he blasted over as Hoffenheim were gut wrenchingly unlucky in front of goal. They scored first and failed to consolidate leads in countless games this season as they racked up a tab of the joint-most draws with Freiburg who finished 4 spots and 15 points below them in 13th. They hit the post and the crossbar the most times in the Bundesliga as if some of those opportunity turned into goals they would have certainly qualified for the UEFA Champions League because they finished 2nd on the Bundesliga expected goals table.
Ishak Belfodil was the only one of Hoffenheim’s five strikers who played regular football to overperform his expected goals tally while Joelinton’s expected goals would have taken him close to 9 goals as he finished with 7 while he accrued 5 assists and 5 expected assists. He ranked fourth on the expected goals charts for Hoffenheim and fifth in expected assists. Joelinton was an integral facet of the team as his value exceeded goals while against RB Leipzig - where he played as an attacking midfielder - he won possession to play a pass to Belfodil who worked the ball back to the Brazilian in the box for him to have his shot saved for Kramaric to tap in at the far post.
"We provided him with information about what he should be able to do when he visits us," said Nagelsmann to Sport.de in August last year. "He is very inquisitive and able to learn - and that he is dangerous for goal, we have seen. What I like is that he does not stop playing and is defensively very uncomfortable. The opponent has the feeling that he's past him, and then he comes with his eternally long bones.”
Nagelsmann decided to keep the Brazilian after he impressed in pre-season last year as he referred to his striker as a ‘beast’ and a ‘machine’. Joelinton joined Hoffenheim as an 18-year-old for 2.2 million euros and will now leave for an outrageous bounty after one season with the first team. He will need patience and could be in a better position to excel and add value with a team that has a proven goal scorer as his own goals will grow incrementally. The towering and mobile physical presence is prepared for the rough and tumble of the English Premier League as he will add another dimension to his team’s attack.