Real Madrid’s devastating attack may have scored a stunning 47 goals in a 12-game winning streak but the long-awaited return of young forward Jesé Rodriguez is set to pile even more fear into defences across Spain and Europe.
The 21-year-old returned to first-team training on Friday following an eight-month absence after he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his right leg in Madrid’s Champions League last-16 match against Schalke in March.
The Las Palmas-born forward progressed from Castilla, Madrid’s second team, and burst on to the first-team scene last season, making 23 appearances in all competitions and scoring five goals, as well as producing four assists to become a firm fans’ favourite at the Santiago Bernabéu.
He took part in the first 15 minutes of training with his team-mates on Friday before returning to a specific training plan to aid his recovery. He will not feature in Madrid’s home game against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night but with an international break following this weekend’s match he could be involved when the European champions return against Eibar in a fortnight.
“Jese has begun a new phase of recovery,” Ancelotti told reporters at the club’s Valdebebas training ground. “He will gradually begin to do some technical work but he will start with some non-contact work in his first week.” After months of rehabilitation, the young forward received a round of applause from his team-mates before participating in the session.
The Spain under-21’s performances last season were such that Madrid fans likened him to club legend Raúl. He surpassed Alvaro Morata in the pecking order and was also in-line for his first call-up for the Spanish senior squad ahead of the World Cup in Brazil. "Jese is in this group that can potentially come [to the World Cup], said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque. There were calls for him to be included in the squad that faced Italy in a friendly in March but Del Bosque decided against it.
His starring role came in January’s victory over Celta Vigo on home soil, the first match back in La Liga after the winter break. The hosts were frustrated by their visitors but Jesé’s arrival from the bench just after the hour mark tipped the balance in Madrid’s favour and Carlo Ancelotti’s men eventually cruised to a 3-0 win.
The Italian has seen his attack cut through defences domestically and in Europe with ease so far this term but he will be delighted to see the return of the talented youngster. Ancelotti suffered a similar injury problem in his career and at the time of the forward’s set-back had words of encouragement. “He will certainly be an important player for Real Madrid after his injury,” he said. “We are very sad about this, but these things happen in football. It could be an important time for him, to enjoy this time of difficulty and build his character.”
Despite seeing his season cut short, Jesé was on the three-man shortlist for the best young player in La Liga last season, an award which was won by Rafinha, on-loan last season with Celta from Barcelona.
The forward will look to hit the ground running on his return but he will face tough competition to get in Madrid’s starting line-up.
Gareth Bale will return from injury to start against Rayo on Saturday and when the Welshman has not been present Isco, who was called-up to the Spain squad on Friday, has shone.
Fábio Coentrão also returned to training following a knee injury that has kept him sidelined since the end of September but Ancelotti confirmed Sami Khedira will not feature this weekend. The midfielder has been called-up by the German national team and Ancelotti will allow him to continue his return to fill fitness with his country.
With Valencia and Atletico Madrid not playing until Sunday, Madrid can stretch their lead at the top of La Liga to two points with victory against Rayo. Ancelotti’s side won the corresponding fixture 5-0 last season and have won all six matches against their Madrid neighbours since their return to the top flight, scoring 13 goals in their three home wins.Reuse content