Real Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames on Sunday night featured a couple of moments that could help to shape a young player’s career.
Jese, Real’s Spanish 20-year-old striker, was given his first La Liga start by Carlo Ancelotti.
With Gareth Bale sidelined (again), the stage was set for the youngster to make an impact, and that he did.
Often deployed in wider positions because of his blistering pace, Jese harried the Athletic defence on several occasions and eventually scored the goal that put Madrid ahead.
Cristiano Ronaldo received the ball on the left, cut into the area and raked a low cross towards the six-yard box, where Jese was on hand to prod home at a stretch.
That was one of the moments. The other came exactly 10 minutes later, when Ronaldo was sent off.
The Portugal international and 2013 Ballon d’Or winner was riled by Carlos Gurpegi, who shoved him in the chest.
Ronaldo then appeared to hit the Bilbao man, albeit lightly, and Gurpegi overreacted, causing a small melee to start.
Ander Iturraspe aggressively put himself in Ronaldo’s path, and the Madrid man head-butted him—again lightly—before receiving a harder knock himself in return.
Referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gamez gave Ronaldo his marching orders, and now a ban of up to four games awaits Real’s star man.
Although this is likely to be only one or two matches—AS report that Madrid are planning a defence based on an error in the referee’s report—it opens up a gap for Jese to continue starting in the forward line.
But make no mistake, Jese being Madrid’s key player against Athletic was not a surprise or a shock, but rather the latest step in the starlet’s rise.
He has featured in the Champions League for Madrid this season and scored the winner in a 3-2 triumph over Valencia a few weeks ago.
It was his goal that earned Madrid their place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, after seeing off Espanyol.
Jese has overtaken Alvaro Morata as the one to watch at the Bernabeu, as also picked up on by ESPN.
His speed and rapid acceleration scare defenders, and it’s no surprise that Ronaldo is listed as one of his favourite players on his Real Madrid biography page.
Being able to learn from the world’s greatest player is an unbelievable privilege and something that Jese doesn’t take for granted.
He told Marca, as reported by Goal.com:
I love playing with these players, no matter what the position. I'm very happy with what I'm doing. I have to continue playing and training the same way and working every day. I always thank all of my colleagues for their support, especially Cristiano, who always gives me good advice.
While Ancelotti has utilised him frequently, it was actually Jose Mourinho who gave Jese his first chance at the Bernabeu.
The current Chelsea manager had him join the squad in the summer of 2011 for the pre-season tour of the U.S., and then handed Jese his debut in the Copa del Rey later that year.
Since then, it has been up and up for the striker, who has set his sights on a Ballon d’Or in four years’ time, as discussed on this website a few days ago.
By then, Ronaldo will be almost 33 years old and unlikely to be in contention for it.
He might not even be playing for Real—Ronaldo told Telefoot that he would like to play in France one day (h/t AS.com). Perhaps it will be Jese sitting on his throne in Madrid.
The youngster’s idol has already pointed him in the right direction with bundles of good advice, one perfectly weighted cross and one moment of ill discipline.