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FEATURE | Jesé must undergo a psychological metamorphosis if he is to succeed at Stoke

The transfer of Jesé Rodriguez from Real Madrid to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2016 for a reported €25m fee brought about a muted feeling amongst PSG fans, especially after the high profile departure of the club’s all-time leading goal scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the jury still very much out on whether the talented but often erratic Edinson Cavani could be trusted with the responsibility of being PSG’s main goal threat, there was understandable cause for concern at the lack of a high profile signing.

Granted, Jesé had played for Real Madrid and won the Champions’ League both in 2014 and 2016; he had scored 18 goals in 94 appearances alongside Ronaldo and company, so surely he had some qualities to contribute to the new post-Zlatan era?

The reason behind Jesé’s signing was to add some much needed extra fire power to a front line that was losing 30 –plus goals a season following Ibrahimovic’s move to Manchester United.

Whilst the signing didn’t exactly create a ‘Neymar style’ welcome for the young Spaniard, you would be forgiven for understanding some of the logic in PSG’s move for him.

After all, Jesé was a winner, critically, a Champions’ League winner, something that PSG lacked in their squad. He had a winning mentality that was sought after to help influence the squad in their quest for progression in the competition.

Jesé also brought versatility to the forward line as he boasts the ability to be able to play anywhere across the front three including through the middle to cover for Edinson Cavani. Although Jesé was nowhere near as prolific in front of goal as the Uruguayan, it was hoped that with an array of attacking options around him he could fill the void if Cavani was unavailable.

Was that a good enough rationale to sign him? Maybe.

Sadly, PSG’s hopes for Jesé were unable to come to fruition as within just a few weeks of the season starting it was clear that not only was Jesé lacking in fitness, but his performances were sub-par for a player of this value.

It would be unfair not to mention the unfortunate appendicitis operation that Jesé underwent just weeks after arriving in the French capital which clearly hampered any early momentum the ex-Real Madrid man may have gained. However, this should not be blamed as a trigger for the lack of fight and commitment Jesé showed in the weeks following his return to action.

Murmuring’s of discontent at a lack of game time followed at a moment when he should have been working hard to break into Unai Emery’s team. A team that just won two consecutive domestic quadruples.

It’s unclear what promises Jesé was made prior to signing in the French capital but his early behaviour pointed to the forward’s expectation of being a first choice player at PSG.

Having ‘Real Madrid’ on your CV does not entitle you to an immediate starting berth at Paris Saint-Germain. A place in the starting XI is earned and it was clear early on that Jesé was not willing to show enough desire or hard work to earn that privilege, instead, looking for an all too easy escape route – that being a loan move to his formative club Las Palmas in January. He made 16 appearances for the Spanish outfit, scoring 3 goals in total.

A four–way battle for the two starting places either side of Cavani in PSG’s front 3 fighting with Lucas Moura, Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore is the least he should have expected upon his arrival in the capital. But there was no battle, no fight and no desire to win his place. The frustrating element here is that all 3 players he was competing with were also in poor form in the first half of the season and Jesé wasted a golden chance to cement himself as a regular starter alongside Cavani. The Spaniard ended with just 14 appearances in rouge et bleu.

So as the question goes, can he do it on a cold wet Tuesday night at Stoke?

If Jesé’s performances since leaving the Bernabeu are anything to go by then it’s unlikely that he will have the impact Mark Hughes is looking for. There’s no doubt the boy from Gran Canaria has ability, but it will come down to whether he will show the fight to succeed. He will no doubt find his new surroundings a culture shock compared to the bright lights of Madrid and Paris as well as the difference in the brand of football he will be playing.

Based on the last 12 months, it is hard to envisage Jesé hitting the ground running at Stoke who are largely devoid of technical ability in their squad. With respect, their style of football at times last season was more suited to Peter Crouch than Jesé, especially after the departure of Marko Arnautovic and the uncertainty surrounding Bojan’s situation and for this reason alone the Spaniard could find the adaptation period difficult.

Then there’s the physical aspect of English football, one that is ingrained in the way Stoke City operate. Jesé will need to adjust to this quickly, firstly in training and then in the Premier League.

This could be the worst possible move for the unsettled forward’s floundering career, but maybe some credit should be attributed to the former Real Madrid man for choosing Stoke over Fiorentina, who have been courting the Spaniard all summer. Perhaps Jesé has opted for the bigger challenge?

If so then that should be admired. There will be huge off field matters that many foreign players struggle with when arriving in England; the climate, the food, the bleak short winter days and the lack of a mid-season break might prove difficult, but he will need to show mental strength at Stoke if he is to be a success – something that he has been lacking.

Jesé’s stock has dropped considerably since leaving the Santiago Bernabeu. PSG seemingly have no plans for him and in a World Cup year the chances of him getting anywhere near the Spain squad are looking bleak. However, if Jesé starts to produce some of the promise once seen in Madrid, this could be the catalyst to get his career back on track and the potential of a permanent move to a club that will help him to rebuild his stuttering career.

Ideally, PSG would have wanted a sale rather than a loan, especially with so many attacking talents at their disposal. With a significant wage bill and with FFP looming after the purchase of Neymar, the capital club need to start off-loading some of their ‘dead-wood’. The loan is without an option to buy, indicating the hierarchy at Stoke City are not fully convinced that Jesé will deliver for the Potters based on his recent exploits.

Similarly to the way Las Palmas didn’t try hard enough to keep him beyond last season’s loan – granted wages were also a sticking point. The board at Stoke are trusting Mark Hughes with this deal, but it’s a move that feels more like rolling a dice and hoping for a six, as opposed to being seduced by what he will bring to the club.

If Jesé fails in England, it’s hard to see where his career path will take him next. PSG don’t want him, but neither do any other top clubs as his waning performances would make it too big of a gamble for a permanent transfer. This move is significant for Jesé as he is now at a crossroads in his short career to date, he has to change the perception of him and fast and or else his career could disappear deeper into mediocrity.

L.D.

 

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