Dwelling in a state of perpetual success, Spain simply cannot stop winning. As their youngsters lift the 2012 UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship trophy, there's only one name on everyone's lips, Jese Rodriguez. Just who is the boy who scored the winner against Greece?
Standing on the pitch next to the female presenter of the show, the boy is dressed immaculately. His smile is genuine, his hair gelled to perfection and not a single strand is out of place. Yet another interview for the boy of the hour, the young man who won Real Madrid hearts long ago and now the heart of every Spaniard who watched him dribble, create and finish in spectacular fashion to guide the U-19 side to yet another trophy.
The boy in question is of course Jese Rodriguez, the tournament’s highest goalscorer and a boy who, based on appearance alone, worships at the alter of perfection.
‘Congratulations Champ’ read the text message from Real Madrid President Florentino Perez, a message the youngster will dearly treasure considering how hard he fought to play for Los Blancos.
“It wasn’t easy to bring him to Real Madrid,” admitted Sixto Alfonso, the man who discovered him. “He had offers from Espanyol, Mallorca and even Barcelona. I tried to persuade him to go to Barcelona and visit La Masia but it was clear he wanted to go to Madrid.”
As only a 12-year-old, Jese averaged 100 goals a season for AD Huracan, a team based in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria that plays in the Regional Preferente. Alfonso, Real Madrid’s scout tasked with unearthing potential within the Canary Islands at the time, was left mesmerised. It takes great skill to convince the scout who has earned quite the reputation in Spain for his ability to spot young talent. He was the man who sent Pedro Rodriguez Barcelona’s way and unearthed David Silva for Real Madrid. Whilst the former succeeded and proved integral to the Barca set-up, those in charge at Madrid regretfully rejected the latter for being ‘too short and thin’.
Thankfully they did not do the same with Jese and the Las Palmas-born forward agreed a year long contract with Real Madrid in 2007. Ten matches later and his contract was renewed, such was the extent of his ability on the ball. Technically gifted with power to his shot, Rodriguez is blessed with pace and physical stature. Fiercely competitive and explosive in attack, the young forward’s ability to uncover and move into space, create chances out of nothing and finish in clinical fashion has seen him compared to the man who mastered Jese’s position on the pitch – Cristiano Ronaldo.
Some have gone so far as to say that the boy is comparable to the Portuguese even off the pitch. Immensely confident of his ability and notorious for having head-butted a referee in September 2009 to earn himself a 15-match ban, the player is indeed a character. Obsessed with football and clearly capable, the forward, like Mario Balotelli and many youngsters before him, struggled to manage his competitive nature and could barely cope without his family beside him.
Showing off tattoos dedicated to each and every member of his family, the player has since matured. He admitted in a recent interview that whilst opponents have increased the level of abuse aimed at him to put him off his game, he has learnt to block them out and to focus solely on the ball and his movements.
An Alberto Toril player in every way, the Real Madrid B Coach is undoubtedly the man who deserves much of the credit for the player’s development. The tactician who favours attacking play encourages mobility, asks his players to interchange positions and appears obsessed with an intense pressing game. Under his tutelage, Jese has grown more mobile, improved defensively and developed an appreciation for space. More importantly, Jese has turned into a man, growing on a personal level as well as on a sporting one.
Whilst Real Madrid is a club brimming with young talent, unfortunately and unlike Barcelona, Los Blancos have a reputation for giving their talent away. Despite having already featured for the first team under Jose Mourinho, playing all of 21 minutes, it is likely he will be sent away at some stage to gain experience. One hopes he will not be another Juan Mata or even Pablo Sarabia, who appears disillusioned with Getafe and reportedly desperate for a move back.
Although Jese has the skills necessary to make the jump sooner or later, for now, he is more than happy to sit and be patient, developing his talents even further. After all, this is his dream team.