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In Snubbing Premier League for Home, Jese Has Chance to Get Career Back on Track

Andy Brassell@@andybrassellFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2017

Jese Rodriguez has struggled since arriving at Paris Saint-Germain.
Jese Rodriguez has struggled since arriving at Paris Saint-Germain.Associated Press

The winter transfer window in Europe began with the fear of a new bogeyman. While the Premier League and its wealth have been the shadow hanging over the continent in recent transfer periods, the emergence of the Chinese Super League as perhaps the major player in the market has given even England's biggest and best cause to keep a closer eye on their valuables.

Yet money can't buy everything, it seems. On the day that Olympique de Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud took the time to emphasise how Dimitri Payet had taken a significant pay cut to return to the Stade Velodrome, per Eurosport France (article in French), another player agreed to a seal a longed-for move that put heart quite clearly before wallet.  

Jese Rodriguez is not yet at Payet's level, neither pulling the strings in an elite European league nor firing the hopes of his senior national team. Some, rather less kindly, might suggest he has come nowhere near doing that in a competition below the continent's cream this season, having struggled in Ligue 1.

Jese, here with Luka Modric at Real Madrid, has had trouble living up to his potential.
Jese, here with Luka Modric at Real Madrid, has had trouble living up to his potential.Andrew Medichini/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

From this point on, Jese hopes to begin putting that right. By joining his hometown club, Las Palmas, on loan from Paris Saint-Germain until the end of the season, the 23-year-old has shown exactly where his priorities lie; in playing regularly, in finding consistency and happiness, rather than in filling his pockets.

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The financial gulf between the French club and the more modest Canary Islands outfit had looked like grounding a potential transfer before it had time to speed up on the runway. Canarias 7 (h/t Canal Supporters, in French) reported a few weeks ago that Las Palmas were only able to pay around 20 per cent of the player's wages (he receives million annually) and that moving back to Spain could land Jese with a tax bill.

Those obstacles, however, were overcome by the player's sheer will, despite Aitor Karanka's efforts to bring a player he knows well from his spell as Real Madrid assistant manager to Middlesbrough and to the Premier League.

"The expressed desire of the player to wear the yellow shirt," read an official Las Palmas statement (in Spanish) to announce the signing, "has been fundamental in having sealed the agreement with Paris Saint-Germain."

Those words may seem emphatic, but they still probably err on the side of understatement. As Las Palmas president Miguel Angel Ramirez pointed out, Jese has left a lot of cash on the table to make this happen. "Jese is losing a lot of money," he said to the club's official radio (via ESPN FC).

In exchange, Jese is giving himself the chance to start again at the beginning, where he came into the world and almost a decade after he left for the mainland, aged 14, to join Real Madrid.

The club also announced that Jese will be wearing the No. 10 shirt. In more than one sense, he will be living out a childhood fantasy in these next six months.

Who would deny Jese the opportunity to bring a bit of joy back into his game? It has been a miserable old slog for him so far in France. He has started just once in Ligue 1 and has rarely looked ready to do more, seeming listless and way short of peak fitness. Off the pitch, he is said to have found it difficult to adapt to Parisian life, but it is hard not to believe that his professional situation has a strong bearing on that.

It didn't look like getting much better for him, either. The arrivals of Julian Draxler and Goncalo Guedes were further competition for an already-crowded sector of the PSG squad in which he was struggling to find daylight.

Guedes has also—for the first time—played as a centre-forward for Benfica this season, cutting off another potential space for Jese: as back-up to the irreplaceable Edinson Cavani.

This isn't how it was supposed to turn out. When we go back to the start of his professional career, it's also hard to believe that Jese made his debut for Real's first team so long ago now—in December 2011, when former manager Jose Mourinho sent on the young forward as a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo in the Copa del Rey win at Ponferradina.

Those strong first impressions continue to live with some of those who spent time around him. Speaking recently, Karanka was full in his praise of a player he knows "very well" and who he continues to have high hopes for. "I know his potential," the Middlesbrough boss said, via ESPN FC.

The question is why we're still talking about potential, rather than productivity. Injury goes some way towards explaining it, and the cruciate ligament damage he suffered in the March 2014 Champions League tie against Schalke 04 hit hardmentally as well as physically. He wasn't able to return until December, again in the Copa del Rey.

Shortly after his comeback, Jese talked about how the injury had changed him and had maybe "happened for a reason," in an interview with FIFA.com. "I needed to learn and become a more mature footballer. I know that I've come back stronger," he said. "I've learned to be more professional in every respect."

After injury and disciplinary problems, Kevin-Prince Boateng has begun to revive  his career at Las Palmas.
After injury and disciplinary problems, Kevin-Prince Boateng has begun to revive his career at Las Palmas.Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Whether PSG boss Unai Emery would agree on the evidence of his efforts at the Parc des Princes is open to conjecture, even if he has never overtly expressed his dissatisfaction with Jese.

What's clear is that Paris have had nowhere near value from their million investment. This move needs to work out for them as much as it does for Jese, whether in terms of rehabilitating him into the player they thought they were getting, or making him more attractive to a future buyer.

Back in 2011, the fact he was replacing Ronaldo in that Copa match seemed significant. Jese had pace, dribbling ability, balance and explosiveness. When he put them all together, as he did in a cameo as substitute in the win at AS Roma last February—Zinedine Zidane's Champions League debut as coach—it was seductive.

Quite apart from the aspect of returning to his roots, Las Palmas should—should—be good for Jese. Quique Setien's team have been one of La Liga's most watchable over the last 12 months. It looks like fun to play for them.

Setien also has a good recent record in giving second (or sometimes third) chances to strays like Jonathan Viera, Marko Livaja and Kevin-Prince Boateng.

Let's hope the Jese revival starts here, at home. If it doesn't, you wonder where he could go next.

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