Pedro Mosquera. Joselu. Antonio Adan. They all fall under one category. Alvaro Negredo. Roberto Soldado. Juan Mata. Borja Velero. These players fall under the other category.
The former group has fallen under the radar and play for small teams such as Getafe and Hoffenheim while the latter group has made it big and play for heavyweights such as the Manchester clubs and Tottenham. But they all have one thing in common: They are products of the youth academy ‘La Fabricia’, Real Madrid’s equivalent of Barcelona’s
famous ‘La Masia’.
Over the last decade, Madrid has spent over a billion dollars on transfers. Under Florentino Perez, youth players have not been given a chance. Intense pressure for titles and the influx of new superstars every year has meant that coaches are not willing to risk games by giving inexpereinced youth a chance. Perez initially meant for his Galacticos project to be termed as ‘ Zindanes y Pavones’, a reference to the superstar Zinedine Zidane and the youth team player Francisco Pavon playing alongisde another symbolizing the union of the homegrown players and the galacticos. But it was just not feasible to play players of such differing quality and experience alongisde one another and soon the’ Pavones ‘ part of the plan was discarded.
Madrid is a club that prides itself on its foriegn stars as well its homegrown players. La Quinta del Buitre consisting of 5 homegrown players: Emilio Butragueno, Manolo Sanchis, Martin Vazquez, Michel and Miguel Pardeza was the core of the team that completely dominated Spanish football in the 1980’s. Fans who know about Madrid’s history yearn for more homegrown players to be incorporated into the team and this desire is further strengthened by the fact that most of Barcelona’s dominating team consists of youth players.
Iker Casillas is the only cantero to break into the first team on a permanent basis after the rise of Guti and Raul. Until last season, he was the only cantero in the first team. Enter Jese Rodriguez.
Born in the Canary Islands, Jese was picked up by La Fabricia when he was 14 years old and playing for Hurucan. He went on to make 80 appearances for Real Madrid B scoring 32 goals and thereby surpassing Butragueno’s record of 21 goals for Castilla. Jese has always been marked for great things. He made his first team debut under Jose Mourinho against SD Ponferradina in the Copa Del Rey and his first La Liga appearance against Real Sociedad.
However, in the 2012-2013 season, Jese was a victim of power polictics and a fued between Mourinho and Castilla coach Alberto Toril. Many feared that the lack of playing time and his isolation from the first team would lead him to move away from Madrid to further his career.
However, with the coming of Ancelotti and Zidane, Jese has begun to truly rise to the occasion. With 8 goals and 4 assists aldready this season, expectations in the capital are sky-rocketing. Like many other great players, he took the oppurtunity provided to him by Bale’s consecutive injuries and Ronaldo’s suspension to establish himself in the first team and show his importance to Ancelotti.
Jese’s rise is remarkable and has brought a great deal of joy to Madridistas but at the same time is a bit unsurpirsing. He has always shown his flair and skill at all levels for Spain and Madrid and therefore his talent was never in question. But talent is not enough to rise up at Real. Juan Mata was Chelsea’s best player for the previous 2 seasons and is now an integral part of Manchester United’s side. But he was unable to establish himself at Madrid. It takes a combination of luck, talent and hardwork and being oppurtunistic. Jese has showed that he has it all. And it doesnt hurt to score your first goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
There are so many aspects of his mentaltity and his game which are admirable. Firstly, he has extremely good technical skills. His acceleration and pace are impressive and in full flight it is easy to mistake him for Ronaldo. He has that unique sharp turn of pace and cuts in from the right or left very well. His finishing and vision are good as well although there is room for improvement.
Personally, I believe his mentality is his strongest aspect. The Bernebeu and the first team are extremely intimidating. It is often hard to settle down in a dressing room with so many large personalities and egos. Players like Micheal Owen and Nicholas Anelka who are surpemely talented and superstars in their own right were unable to adjust in Madrid due to the nature of the dressing room. Jese however seems unaffected by these issues. He has said the right things and done the right things. He has expressed his admiration for Ronaldo who is his role model and is liked by important figures in the dressing room such as Ramos and Casillas. Zidane has taken him under his wing. The support of such important figures for a young player is integral to his development. He has shown composure in big matches. His goals have come against big clubs such as Bilbao, Barcelona, Atletico and Valencia.
Jese’s rise poses three important questions. Firstly, who should play after Ronaldo returns from his ban: Bale or Jese? There is a sporting and political aspect to this question. Jese is in arguably better form but Bale cannot be said to be in bad form either. He had no pre-season and multiple muscle niggles have restricted him from fully returning to full form. There is no doubt that he will be a success at Madrid but Ancelotti needs to decide whether to play Jese while he is in his purple patch and slowly return Bale to the team or whether to fully integrate Bale in the team and restrict Jese to subsitute appearances.
The political aspect is that Perez fears Bale being seen as an extremely expensive failure. The media and the public are extremely quick to condemn players as failures and draw comparisons to Kaka. Public opinion among Madrid fans seems to be that Jese seems to deserve a place in the side on merit and that would send the correct message to the other players: Hardwork and good performances are rewarded and acknowleged by the coach.
The second question is what does this mean for future castilla players? Does Jese’s rise mean that Ancelotti and Perez will now remake thier transfer stratgey in order to give youth players more importance ? La Fabricia definetly produces top quality players. These players should be given more oppurtunities. The club spends years nuturing them and it makes more sense to give them a chance instead of shelling out millions on another player.
The third question is the future of Alvaro Morata which hangs in balanace. At the start of the season, he seemed to be in favour. Benzema was in bad form and the fans clamoured for Morata. It seems now that the best option would be to loan him out to a big club in order for him to get some much needed experience in the same mould as Lukaku. Arsenal, Spurs and Juventus all had rumoured interest in him. Selling a talent like him would be a mistake. I would prefer him as the second striker as compared to a 50 million Falcao or Cavani.
A word on Madrid in 2014. So far, Madrid has only conceded 1 goal and that was in a 1-1 draw to Bilbao, which is also incindentally the only match they have failed to win this year. The defence which was leaky at the start of the year has really tightened up and is further strengthened by the return of Varane. Modric, Alonso and Di Maria in the midfield 3 exhibit great balance and Benzema upfront is arguably in his best form since coming to Madrid. The business end of the competition has started now. Hala Madrid. Here is to La Decima.