Jese vs. Isco: Who's Got the Brighter Real Madrid Future?

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

MADRID, SPAIN - AUGUST 22:  Jese Rodriguez (2nd L) of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring the team's fifth goal with teammates Alvaro B. Morata (L), Francisco Roman Alarcon (3d L), or Isco;  Nacho Fernandez (2nd R) and Karim Benzema (R) during the Santiago Bernabeu Trophy match between Real Madrid CF and Al-Sadd at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on August 22, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Isco scored Real Madrid's third goal as they beat Elche to, temporarily at least, move three points clear in Spain's top flight. It completed the perfect day for the club's indulgent summer signings—Asier Illarramendi had scored the first, Gareth Bale the second.

That's not often been the story though.

In fact two of them certainly wouldn't be considered regulars in Carlo Ancelotti's favoured 4-3-3 formation at the moment. Isco would fall into that bracket, as would Illarramendi who lines up behind Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso and Angel di Maria for a midfield berth.

It could be argued Bale, despite Saturday's wonder strike, is in danger of losing his place in the side to academy sensation Jese Rodriguez, who has started the year in fine fettle.

"I'm a coach not an administrator," Ancelotti insisted, via ESPN, after it was suggested he would continue with Bale, due to his price tag, rather than Jese when Cristiano Ronaldo is available for selection again.

That demonstrates just how far Jese has come. He's now piling pressure on a man who cost nearly €100 million to be dropped—meanwhile €40 million man Isco is growing frustrated at a lack of opportunities in the side.

MADRID, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22: Isco of Real Madrid CF celebrates scoring their third goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Elche CF at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on February 22, 2014 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

The situation is remarkably different from the beginning of the season.

Signed from Malaga, Isco's arrival signalled everything Madrid's philosophy was seemingly shifting towards. He was young, Spanish, technically sound with a brilliant future and, if that wasn't enough, his Bernabeu career got off to a stunning start.

He scored five goals in his first six games, including a late winner against Real Betis on the opening day of the season, and he added an assist too.

Perhaps suffering on the back of a long season with Malaga followed by the European Championships with Spain U21s his form then dipped, but he returned with another flourish in November. During a five-game spell he scored three more and created another three—Ancelotti's decision to take him out of the limelight for a while seemingly justified.

However, since Christmas, the 21-year-old has found it hard to find his place in a formation which doesn't incorporate the No. 10 role which perhaps best suits Isco.

With one man's struggles has emerged another man's opportunity though: Jese Rodriguez.

Arguably even behind Alvaro Morata when the season kicked off in August, the 20-year-old—who is 10 months younger than Isco—has begun to show that Madrid had their own young, Spanish, technically sound player with a brilliant future all along.

The differences between the two must be stressed because, after all, these two talented footballers are not necessarily competing for the same position in Ancelotti's lineup.

Where Jese has raw pace, an eye for goal and a streak of arrogance, akin to Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco has grace, an eye for a pass and an awareness of what is going on around him, not dissimilar to Andres Iniesta.

But which one has the brighter future at Madrid?

Immediately, it would seem to be Jese. If Ancelotti were to pick a team for a Champions League final tomorrow, neither would probably start, but Jese has found his role in the side—even if that is as back-up to Ronaldo and Bale for the time being.

Isco's case is more curious. Ancelotti has commented he could be used as a false nine, per Marca, but it is not a tactic the Italian has been particularly forthcoming with, while Isco doesn't seem to be trusted defensively in a three-man midfield.

So while Jese continues to grow in a role natural to him, acquiring more minutes and goals with each passing week, Isco is left to question his involvement in Madrid's XI.

Maybe it will be that he has to adapt his game, so he can be a deeper creator like Modric or add more energy like Di Maria. Or maybe he has to prove he can be a genuine alternative to Karim Benzema—almost Lionel Messi like.

In an ideal world and, in all probability, Isco and Jese will both go on to revel at Madrid for the next decade, but, while Isco's asking these questions, there's only one name the Bernabeu fans are chanting.

And he's one of their own.