As a youngster at one of football’s most renowned "finishing schools," the line between arrogance and confidence is a perilously thin one; a line that can make or break you.
And no one will know that better than Jese Rodriguez, the gifted wunderkind from the Santiago Bernabeu who suddenly finds himself edging ever closer to an international call-up into Vicente del Bosque’s World Cup squad for Brazil.
But it could have been so different for the Canarian footballer, who sailed close to the wind at Real Madrid as a youngster.
According to my sources, former sporting director Predrag Mijatovic brought him down to earth when he tore up what the youngster thought was his contract, and told him that his attitude and behaviour meant he was no longer wanted at the club.
It was a bluff, of course, but it had the desired effect as an inconsolable Jese set about channelling his talents in a more positive direction.
In truth, however, Real Madrid were never going to want to lose the services of this star of the future and it was not long before the young Jese became the leading light of Castilla, Real’s reserve side, breaking Emilio Butragueno's record of 21 goals in a season for the Los Blancos' second string.
It should have been plain sailing for the young star from that moment onwards, except that an unseemly spat between former manager Jose Mourinho and reserve coach Alberto Toril restricted his chances (InsideSpanishFootball.com).
Mourinho said at the time:
We play with a different system, they have another model.
There are Castilla players that play in positions that do not exist in the first team, like Jese Rodriguez, who plays as a ‘nine and a half’.
"Also, our wide players play further forward, and in Castilla they play 4-4-2,” he added, an inference that he played neither as a striker nor as a No. 10 tucked just behind the striker.
The truth was that, despite chances to blood Jese in the first team, as well as some other youngsters who were equally worthy, Mourinho, for whatever reason, never seemed to have any intention of playing him.
Then the youngster got that slice of luck everyone needs to go along with ability and commitment.
Out went Mourinho, and in came Carlo Ancelotti and a less-than-100 per cent fit Gareth Bale.
Couple that with a sudden desire by Madrid to give Cristiano Ronaldo the protection that would help make him an even more potent force and suddenly Jese was handed his chance by the new man at the helm.
And he hasn’t looked back since.
“Jese has talent. He needs to work and understand to play at a high level you need to be professional,” says Ancelotti, who sees the potential in him to become the first player since Iker Casillas to make a major impact in the senior team after coming through the ranks.
What will impress Ancelotti most is Jese's ability to perform on the biggest stages in the major games. He has already scored at the Bernabeu, the Nou Camp, the Vicente Calderon, the Mestalla and at the San Mames.
Add to that the fact that his goal and assists per minutes played stats are practically the same as Bale’s and you can see why Florentino Perez, who normally looks abroad for his new stars, is now taking a much more studious look at who’s coming through the ranks.
Just shy of his 21st birthday, he isn’t exactly short of confidence either, revealing to Marca (via Football Espana) recently: “I’ve dreamed of winning the Ballon d’Or in four years.”
And it’s that kind of confidence that has attracted the attention of Del Bosque, who will surely look to him and the similarly super-confident Diego Costa to give Spain that extra bit of spice in attack they might just need if they have aspirations of retaining the World Cup in Brazil later this year.
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