Gabriel Jesus claimed he was no Sergio Aguero after hitting four goals in Manchester City’s 5-1 demolition of relegation-threatened Watford on Saturday.
The Brazilian also set up the other for Rodri as leaders City clocked up an emphatic win to maintain the advantage in the Premier League title race.
Jesus was once tipped as the long-term successor to Aguero, City’s record goalscorer who left the club last year, after arriving as a precocious teenager in 2016.
It has not turned out that way with Jesus, now 25, no longer considered an out-and-out centre forward or an automatic starter.
Yet, with his unselfish play, he has repeatedly proved his value to the squad and did so again – in a perfect riposte to recent speculation about his future – with his virtuoso display against the Hornets.
Jesus said: “I’m very happy because I’m here to try to score goals to help with goals.
“I’ve said before, I’m not Aguero but I know I can help my team. Aguero is a legend, one of the best players in City’s history, but I try to help as well.
“It was a great performance from everyone. We changed some players but stayed with the same quality, with the same energy.
“That’s the talent we have, amazing players. It’s very difficult to play here. You have to stay on a high level to get the chance. That’s the challenge.”
Jesus is contracted until the end of next season but his future had been cast into doubt following strong reports this week linking City with Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland.
He put that aside to fire City ahead after just four minutes and doubled the lead by heading in a pinpoint cross from Kevin De Bruyne.
Hassane Kamara pulled one back for the visitors but Jesus intervened again to pick out Rodri, who smashed a stunning half-volley into the roof of the net.
Jesus completed his treble – his first in the Premier League – from the penalty spot in the opening moments of the second half before sweeping in his fourth soon after.
The result took City, who now have just five games remaining, another step closer to retaining their title.
Jesus said: “Now is the most important part of the season. The final games will decide the trophies. We have to play as a final every game.”
While City face a run-in that could lead to glory in the Premier League and Champions League, the outlook for Watford is bleak.
Roy Hodgson’s side are seven points off safety with just five games to dig themselves out of trouble.
“We’ve lost a lot of games so we need to keep our heads up and keep believing,” said Kamara on the club’s website after his first goal since signing from Nice in January.
“We will remain hungry, that is for sure. We have five games left – we won’t give up and we’ll give the best that we can offer.”