Neil Humphreys: All hail rise of Gabriel Jesus
Brazil's Man City star finally lives up to his childhood billing
In 2017, Gabriel Jesus' boyhood football coach insisted that his former protege would win the Ballon d'Or within three years.
The clock is ticking.
The boy from Brazil has only a year to achieve yet another unrealistic ambition.
That's the problem with being so good, so young.
Everyone else expects too much, too soon.
Jesus is still only 22 and yet seems to have been around forever, mostly not living up to inflated expectations.
At Manchester City, Pep Guardiola often seems one "goal drought" query away from rubbing a hole in his forehead.
At Brazil press conferences, Tite has long tired of the same interrogation.
When will Jesus deliver on his prodigious potential?
When will the shy guy replicate the tenacity of his Sao Paulo favela? When will the latest drought end?
Jesus' selectors have heard variations of these themes for at least three years, ever since the kid broke through for the Selecao at 19 and signed on for Guardiola's revolution the following year.
But Jesus answered the lot yesterday, emphatically.
Brazil's return to Belo Horizonte, where Germany smashed seven past them at the 2014 World Cup, was already symbolic. The venue marked a potential rebirth, a new beginning for a disoriented nation.
And it was, in a literal sense.
Their oldest enemies, Argentina, succumbed to their defensive frailties, allowing the hosts to stand one game away from their first Copa America triumph since 2007.
But the real metamorphoses was more discreet, just one quiet young man making a timely transformation.
Jesus scored one and set up the other, sprinting gazelle-like across pitch before supplying a tap-in for Roberto Firmino.
When his country needed Jesus most, he delivered.
In the group stages, Brazilians were accused of falling out of love with their national side, refusing to buy expensive tickets and paint the town yellow.
But they are certainly falling in love with Jesus.
Everyone loves a redemption story, even one that isn't particularly redemptive.
At best, it's a minor course correction. At worst, it's a striker coming to grips with the exasperating inconsistency of youth.
MONKEY OFF HIS BACK
Either way, Jesus removed more monkeys from his back than a zookeeper under siege.
No goals in last year's World Cup. No goals in four previous Copa America matches.
The knives were out.
But a goal and an assist in Brazil's biggest - and best - game since the World Cup wiped the slate clean and reasserted his credentials for club and country.
Jesus stepped up in Neymar's absence. In time, he'll be expected to do likewise with Sergio Aguero.
While the Copa America spotlight was inevitably dragged towards Lionel Messi, the same storyline was playing out alongside him.
Brazil was proving to be no country for old men, particularly those playing up front for Argentina.
Both Messi, 32, and Sergio Aguero, 31, struck the woodwork, but were otherwise subdued and outshone by Lautaro Martinez.
Batons were being passed.
Jesus playfully mocked Aguero's defeat, saying he'll savour Brazil's triumph when the two players meet again in a Manchester City dressing room, but he undoubtedly sees the bigger picture.
For once, Aguero's grey hair suited him. The 31-year-old looked his age.
As his City understudy dominated, Aguero drifted to the margins of the contest.
Jesus displayed the raw quality that dragged him out from childhood poverty and caught the attention of an enraptured Guardiola.
At times, he showed the kind of acceleration that Guardiola's quick transitions depend upon.
Most of all, he showed off that Selecao swagger.
Jesus can sometimes play for City as if he's restraining himself, like a shy teenager not sure how to behave among wealthy relatives.
His goal ratio was never really the problem, not by any reasonable analysis. In his first two seasons in England, he knocked in seven from 10, and 13 from 29 league appearances, a reasonable return for a teenager.
His last campaign was less impressive, scoring only seven goals in 29 English Premier League appearances (although four against Burton in the League Cup, the winner against Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final and two more in the FA Cup final pretty much handed City two trophies).
For the better part of three years, Jesus was unfairly compared to an established colossus, easily among the finest strikers in EPL history, but he compares more favourably now.
In fact, Jesus eclipsed Aguero in the Copa America semi-final.
Without Neymar, he's the leading man in Brazil. It's only a matter of time before he takes on the same role in Manchester.