Meet Jean, the elastic Bahia shot-stopper who plays like David De Gea


Jack Lang is profiling the promising players in Brazil who YOUR club should be chasing this summer. After five outfield players, it's only fair a goalkeeper gets a mention this week...

 

Kieza was the first to be denied, by an instinctive, sprawling stop. Yago's effort on the follow-up was smothered. Then André Lima must have felt for sure he had scored with a close-range header, only for the ball to be clawed out from just under the crossbar. Kanu and David would also see their best efforts repelled.

"He's working miracles," swooned Globo's commentator, and while that might have been a bit of an exaggeration, this was certainly a red-letter day for Bahia goalkeeper Jean, who was man of the match in the Salvador derby against Vitória last weekend. Yet it wasn't a performance out of the blue for one of Brazil's most talented young stoppers...


 

Background 

Jean was born into a goalkeeping family: his father – also known as Jean, confusingly – played between the sticks for Bahia in the 90s and later for Vitória, Guarani and Ponte Preta in a journeyman's career. The two are not close these days, Jean Jr having cut ties since his mother took out a restraining order on her ex-husband, but the younger man has nonetheless gone into the same business.

A Salvador native, Jean joined the Bahia youth team in 2012 and rose up the youth ranks, ticking off the usual milestones – impressive performances at the Copinha tournament, Brazil caps at youth level – and making his senior debut in May 2015, in Série B. He was not an instant hit: fans were angered by a costly error against Ceará and he was soon bumped back down to the bench. 

But when first-choice goalkeeper Marcelo Lomba got injured in 2016, Jean began to make up for lost time, shining against those same opponents. "I owed the fans a performance like that," he admitted afterwards. "Hopefully I can continue like this and become an idol at this club. I want to change the way the supporters see me."

In the last few months, he has done that and then some. Jean has been brilliant since the turn of the year, keeping 17 clean sheets – he would likely have more were it not for squad rotation – and helping Bahia to the Copa do Nordeste title. With the Tricolor's attack not up to much, he's likely to be their key man as they bid to stay in Série A.


 

Style and strengths

Agility and bravery are Jean's key attributes. There is an elasticity to his movement that helps him spring into the corners and pull off diving stops, often to spectacular effect. He is light on his feet and seems to relish the chance to throw himself around beneath the crossbar.

When an attacker bursts through, meanwhile, the 21-year-old is adept at rushing off his line to snuff out the danger, be it with outstretched arms or with his legs. He times his rushes from goal brilliantly and gets back up to his feet in a flash.

He is also comfortable playing the ball out from the back. Jean is a tidy passer with his left foot and, inspired by Rogério Ceni, has even been practising free-kicks in training. "Let's see if I get the chance to do it in a game," he said recently.

 

Areas for improvement 

At 6ft 2in, Jean is tall but no giant, so it's little surprise that he can struggle to dominate aerially. When high crosses come into the box, he is more comfortable hanging back on his line than going out to claim the ball, which means he ends up having to stop shots that he might have been able to prevent.

 

Who he'd suit

In April, Jean extended his contract at Bahia until December 2019 and thus far talk of a move away has not risen above whisper level. But the players he idolises all play in Europe, from Manuel Neuer ("I watch how he distributes the ball") and Gianluigi Donnarumma ("The way he's playing at that age... he's a great example") to fellow countrymen Éderson and Júlio César, so there's a good chance he'll be looking that way if he continues to improve at the current rate. 


 

What they say 

Former Bahia coach Guto Ferreira: "He gets more mature every day. His quality is indisputable. Every time he goes between the posts, he gives everything he has, body and soul."

 

Did you know? 

When a player in Brazil scores a hat-trick, they get the dubious honour of picking a song (usually a dose of the awful country pop that is inexplicably popular among the nation's footballers) to accompany highlights of their feat on Sunday evening TV show Fantástico.

At the weekend, Jean's heroics against Vitória meant that he was extended a similar privilege. Having kept a clean sheet and been the top scorer in the Série A fantasy football game, he got to pick his favourite film, scenes of which were cut together with his saves. 

His choice? "I'll go for American Sniper." Fair enough, but why? "The decisions he has to make... it's a bit like my life." It is? OK then.