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Pep Guardiola emphasises importance of Gabriel Jesus amid Harry Kane speculation

Manchester City v Everton – Premier League – Etihad Stadium
(Image credit: Carl Recine)

Pep Guardiola has emphasised the importance of Gabriel Jesus to his Manchester City side as Harry Kane speculation continues to dominate the Premier League build-up.

City have been heavily linked with a move for Tottenham and England captain Kane throughout the summer and manager Guardiola last week confirmed the club’s interest.

The champions are seeking a replacement striker for the prolific Sergio Aguero, who left the Etihad Stadium at the end of last season.

City continue to be heavily linked with Harry Kane

City continue to be heavily linked with Harry Kane (Mike Egerton/PA)

Yet after more than four years of mostly playing second fiddle to Aguero, it could also be the chance for Brazil international Jesus to step forward.

“Gabriel is an incredibly important player for us,” said City manager Guardiola, whose side interestingly begin their title defence at Spurs on Sunday.

“Always his mind was in the right place and he can play as a striker or wider, in more lateral positions.

“He is an exceptional player, there is no doubt about that. He has had an incredible key role in these many years of success we’ve had, every season.”

Jesus (right) will hope to step up following the departure of Aguero (left)

Jesus (right) will hope to step up following the departure of Aguero (left) (Dave Thompson/PA)

With Kane still in the Spurs camp, for now at least, Jesus has the chance to stake his claim for a regular starting spot this weekend. The 24-year-old was unavailable for the Community Shield last week – having taken a later summer break following the Copa America – but is now in contention.

His principal role of centre forward, however, is not always one Guardiola chooses to deploy. In the knockout games in last season’s run to the Champions League final, for instance, the Spaniard opted to play with a ‘false nine’ and the system mostly worked well.

Yet he insists a striker will always have a part to play.

Guardiola said: “We played with recognised strikers with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel (last season).

Guardiola often prefers to play with a 'false nine'.

Guardiola often prefers to play with a ‘false nine’. (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“Unfortunately Sergio was injured for more than a year and he played few, few games but, always when Sergio was fit, he was an important part of the team.

“He was there, a proper striker – and Gabriel is a proper striker. Sometimes we play with a different approach but the intention is the same, to try to control the game and score goals as much as possible with or without a striker.

“It is what has happened since I arrived and we will continue this way.”