Jonas: I've surprised myself at Valencia
Valencia’s Brazilian forward Jonas might be one of the pacier players in the Spanish league today, but his career has unfolded at an altogether slower pace.
A chemistry student when he started his career with Guarani, Jonas graduated from the youth team to make his professional debut in 2005. Moves to Santos, Gremio and Portuguesa then followed, though it would not be until 2010 and his second spell with the Porto Alegre club that he finally began to show his worth, scoring 23 goals in 33 appearances during a vintage year.
After serving such a lengthy apprenticeship in his homeland, the 26-year-old is understandably delighted to have adapted to life so quickly in La Liga. Brought to Valencia just as the January transfer window was about to snap shut, the leading scorer in last year’s Brasileirao quickly earned a place for himself in coach Unai Emery’s rotating roster of strikers, and has a goal and two assists to his name in his six appearances so far.
“It’s great here. I haven’t been around that long, but I’m adapting well,” the new boy tells FIFA.com. “I’m enjoying the club and the city. I think I made the right choice in coming here, and I’ve surprised myself with the start I’ve made.”
Helping him acclimatise to life on Spain’s Mediterranean coast are his girlfriend, one of his brothers and his parents, while his new employers have also been very attentive. “The club gave me a really great welcome,” he says. “I was the only player who arrived in the winter transfer market and that helps. The team are always giving me advice and information.”
The Portuguese duo of Miguel and Ricardo Costa have been especially helpful, taking their new Brazilian team-mate under their wing. And the similarities between Spanish and his native tongue have also made the transition easier, as he explains: “They speak nice and slowly to me so I can understand a bit of everything.”
One of Jonas’s main concerns during his negotiations with Los Chés was the chilly European winter, though his arrival coincided with milder temperatures. And with springtime nearly here and the city’s famous Fallas festival in full swing, it’s a good time to be in Valencia. “It’s a bit like our carnival. The whole place is lit up,” he says, warming to the city and its fine old buildings.
Happy off the pitch, Jonas is equally content on it, slotting into an advanced midfield role in Emery’s 4-2-3-1 system. “I’ve been playing in a three-man midfield and enjoying a lot of freedom,” he explains. “I come looking for the ball and I can move around a lot, just like I was doing at Gremio.”
Valencia fans will be hoping their recent Brazilian signing can be just as prolific for them as he was for his old club. And with Emery’s management skills to help him, Jonas is expecting to develop his game even further. “I haven’t spent that much time with him but I’m enjoying myself a lot,” he says in praise of his coach. “You can see that he’s a very hard-working, hands-on coach. He studies the opposition very closely and shows us very detailed videos. His planning is excellent. He’s not into his third season with the club for nothing.”
Emery’s immediate task is to ensure his team recovers from their painful defeat to Schalke in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League and maintain their momentum in La Liga, where they currently lie third, albeit well adrift of title contenders Barcelona and Real Madrid. A 4-0 defeat at Zaragoza last weekend suggests the recovery process could take some time.
“Getting knocked out of Europe affected us in that game, but that’s normal I think,” says the Brazilian. “It always takes a while to get back into the swing. We’ve got a whole week to work on things now and I’m sure the coach will rebuild our morale. If we can finish third, it would be like winning a title. We’re fighting hard with Villarreal and there’s 11 points between us and Espanyol in fifth, which shows how much class we’ve got.”
His move to Spain has also given him the chance to pit his wits against world-class forwards such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Forlan and David Villa. “I feel proud to be out there with all these great players," he admitted. "It makes me happy.”
And Jonas’s step up in class has had another positive knock-on effect, with Brazil coach Mano Menezes giving him a place in the Canarinha squad for the friendly with Scotland on 27 March, the first time he has been called up for international duty. Having bided his time in a slow-burning career so far, the quick-learning Jonas is now ready to grab whatever opportunities come his way with both hands.