HOW do you solve a problem like Joelinton? Well, if you are Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce, you continue to believe that if you strip away all the issues that have been afflicting the Brazilian striker in the last 12 months, you will find a £40m marksman waiting to emerge.

What you do not do, according to Bruce, is give up, so while some bosses might have looked to move on Joelinton this summer, either temporarily to build up his confidence or permanently in an attempt to cut Newcastle’s losses, the Magpies manager insists he never even considered such a move.

Instead, he has reiterated his faith in Newcastle’s number nine, a figure who continues to divide opinion in the same way that his performances can veer from the sublime to the ridiculous, often in the same game.

Take Wednesday night at Morecambe, for instance. Joelinton scored two goals, the second of which was a spectacular long-range effort after he beat the offside trap and cut in from the left wing. Yet to many supporters, watching a live stream of the game at home on their laptops, the most telling moment of the 24-year-old’s display was the point in the first half at which he watched Jacob Murphy’s cross rebound off the base of the post in front of him rather than tapping the ball home from the goalline.

It was a staggering moment of indecision, yet it seemed to encapsulate the South American’s time on Tyneside so far. A natural goalscorer wouldn’t have waited to see whether Murphy’s cross drifted in, so does that mean Joelinton will never be a natural centre-forward? And if he isn’t, why on earth did Newcastle spend a club-record fee on signing him from Hoffenheim?

“Look, we all saw the (second) goal he scored at Morecambe,” countered Bruce. “That gives you a clue to his ability. We see it - or I see it - on the training ground every day, but the thing he has to come to terms with is adapting to the Premier League, and he has struggled with that, like a lot of great players.

“I think Jo will benefit from the fact he understands what is coming more now. He still has improvement in him, but let’s be clear on one thing - I had no intention of letting Jo go anywhere this summer, we have to keep working with him.

“He will certainly get a little bit of confidence from scoring a couple the other night because, when you’re constantly kicked like he has been, sometimes it can bash away at you. No one is immune to that, but we will keep supporting him. We have to get the best out of him.”

Newcastle return to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, scene of arguably Joelinton’s best moment so far in a Magpies shirt.

When he scored Newcastle’s winner against Spurs last August, he looked ready to really kick on, but it was to be another ten months before he found the net in the Premier League, and even accounting for the gap caused by coronavirus, the wait led to many supporters and observers giving up on him.

Bruce thinks that was harsh, although he concedes Joelinton suffered last season from having to lead the line on his own with precious little attacking competition or support.

This season, Callum Wilson and a fit-again Andy Carroll are taking some of the limelight away from him, and Bruce is hoping a reduced focus will enable Joelinton to feel much more comfortable.

“It can only help him (Joelinton) that we’ve brought some more forward-thinking players into the squad,” said the Newcastle boss. “Our aim is to hopefully be a bit more creative, that’s for sure.

“Even though it was just Morecambe in the cup, we certainly saw that the other day. We had more of a cutting edge, and I think that can only help him. Time will tell. We’re still quietly confident that we can get the best out of him, and he can turn into a really good player for us.

“The simple thing is that I know what he can do. I’ve seen him, and I know he’s got some really decent natural ability. Let’s keep reminding him what a good player he is and try to keep him confident. I am sure he will be better this year and learn from the experiences he has had.”