Gabriel Jesus hoping mis-spent youth pays off for Arsenal in Champions League
Gabriel Jesus is ready to teach Arsenal’s Champions League newcomers all about a competition he used to skip school to watch as a boy.
The Gunners return to Europe’s elite club competition after a six-year absence, having finished second in the Premier League last season.
A number of Mikel Arteta’s players have yet to taste Champions League football, with the likes of Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice and William Saliba set to make their debuts in the tournament against PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday night.
Jesus, meanwhile, scored 14 goals in 22 Champions League appearances for Manchester City and came off the bench as his former club lost the 2021 final to Chelsea.
“I remember the times I watch at home, the times I missed school to watch and my mum got crazy,” the Brazil forward said of why he holds the competition in such high regard.
“It starts from there. It was different to hear the music, to see the best clubs. All the leagues, the best clubs go. I think this helps a lot, then it is a different game, a different competition.
“If I talk, I get in trouble! As a kid, you do things you don’t control. Like I said to the kids: don’t do it, go to school.
“When I was a kid, 14, 15 years old, and I tried to go to the clubs to do tests to stay in the club, I always chose school.”
Having gone from playing truant to watch the Champions League to starring in it, Jesus will be key to any hopes Arsenal have of going deep into the tournament.
The 26-year-old, who has recovered from a second knee surgery in the past eight months, revealed his team-mates are already getting excited ahead of the visit of PSV and has backed them to shine.
“Yesterday, some of them were joking in the gym, putting the (Champions League music on),” he added.
“I’m sure everyone is happy, not just the players, the club, the fans, it goes a long way without playing in this competition, now Arsenal are back.
“A club like Arsenal cannot stay without playing that competition so everyone at the club is very happy.
“Everyone here is already experienced to know how to control emotions and these kind of things. Some of them, it is the first time they play in the Champions League.”
Arteta will also be taking charge of a team in the competition for the first time and believes Arsenal are back where they belong.
“Proud and excited I would say,” he said of his feelings on the eve of the opening Group B encounter.
“It’s been a long time for the club since we’ve been in the competition and obviously the first time for me as a manager as well.
“We’ve been chasing it and fighting for it and now we’ve got it. Now we have to make the most out of it and it starts at home.
“Every time that I watched it and we weren’t there I felt it. This club has to be in the Champions League and when I have the job that I have, the responsibility is to try and bring the club to the biggest stages, the biggest tournaments and then be fighting for them.”
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