Young Spanish sensation Jese Rodriguez will end almost nine months of torment and make his long-awaited return from injury when Real Madrid host Cornella in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday night.
The 21-year-old broke through into the Madrid first team in emphatic fashion last season, drawing comparisons with club legend Raul, but saw his campaign agonisingly cut short when he suffered cruciate ligament damage in his right knee during a Champions League match against Schalke in March.
It put paid to his involvement in Madrid’s Champions League glory in Lisbon and also ended any hopes of being included in Vicente del Bosque’s Spain squad for the World Cup in Brazil but the Las Palmas-born forward will look to put all that behind him tomorrow night when he steps out on to the Bernabeu pitch for the first time in almost nine months.
“Jese won't start the match but he'll play in the second half,” confirmed Carlo Ancelotti in the pre-match press conference. “It's great news for us, as he's a guy with great quality. He's eager and very excited.”
Young players find it difficult to breakthrough into a first team packed full of stars but Jese, a product of the club’s youth system, broke the mould last season. He had featured for the first team before, under Jose Mourinho, but was included in the first-team squad for the first time last season after impressing with Castilla, the club’s second team, in the Segunda Division.
He showed no sign of nerves on the big stage, surpassing Alvaro Morata in the pecking order and playing so well that fans were calling on the youngster to take the place of one of Gareth Bale or Karim Benzema in the starting eleven. That did not happen, with Ancelotti gradually easing him into first team affairs but, injury aside, he enjoyed a sparkling season.
Now he will be keen to hit the ground running against third-tier Cornella and be able to give Ancelotti more options to add to a free-scoring attack. The Italian was asked if he would be making any signings in the winter transfer window but his response was that Jese would be the only winter addition, like a new player.
With Madrid already leading 4-1 from the first leg in Catalonia (the match was brought forward due to Madrid’s involvement in the FIFA Club World Cup), Tuesday night’s match provides the ideal opportunity for Jese’s return. It also provides the perfect opportunity for youngster Alvaro Medran to make his competitive first-team debut.
The 20-year-old has been involved with the first team squad throughout this season, making his debut when he replaced Luka Modric during Madrid’s 5-0 victory at Levante in October. Ancelotti believes the time is right to blood the midfielder alongside Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi on Tuesday night.
The Madrid boss will also take then opportunity to rest stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos for the match. The German had complained recently that he was feeling the strain of playing so many matches and he, along with Marcelo and Pepe, will get the chance to put his feet up on Tuesday night as Ancelotti has one eye on Saturday’s Liga match against Celta Vigo.Reuse content