"Zidanes y Pavones". With this motto, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez managed to woo the footballing audience at the turn of the century, marketing the Spanish club as a pioneering enterprise – a money-making machine which would also challenge for silverware at the top of the game. More than ten years later, the same is happening again at the White Castle.
The principle is simple: Based upon former Real Madrid players Zinedine Zidane and Francisco Pavon, Perez envisioned a Real Madrid team composed of established world superstars and homegrown players. For one reason or another, that policy ultimately failed during the president’s first mandate at the club. However, all signs point to potential success this time around.
After unveiling Isco as their new player at the end of June, Real Madrid confirmed shortly afterwards that former “cantera” man Daniel Carvajal was going to rejoin their ranks too, improving their squad with two Spanish additions in the space of only three days.
These developments have been the most obvious indications of Perez's attempt to reintroduce his 'Zidanes y Pavones' policy under the tutelage of new coach Carlo Ancelotti this upcoming season.A huge revelation with Andalucian side Malaga, Isco has joined Los Blancos for €30m after clocking up impressive displays at club level as well as with the Spanish Under-21 side during the European Under-21 Championship. Real Madrid academy product Carvajal meanwhile, returns to Los Merengues after a successful season with Bayer Leverkusen where he was voted the Bundesliga’s best right-back.
Amongst Real Madrid fans, who often express their love for homegrown players, such developments have been eagerly awaited. With Iker Casillas set to regain a place in the starting line-up next season, the Mostoles-born goalkeeper is the only player who shares a special bond with the Santiago Bernabeu faithful. As adored as he is by fans, Sergio Ramos remains a product of Sevilla’s youth side. But with the promotion of Alvaro Morata and Nacho to the first team, Los Merengues now have four new, hungry Spanish players at their immediate disposal.
However, there is another player that the club’s hierarchy would do well to promote – and that is Castilla gem Jese Rodriguez, who has been catching fire with his impressive displays for Real Madrid’s reserve team and La Rojita.
The Las Palmas-born winger has been on Real Madrid’s books since 2007 and toured with the senior side in the United States for the past two summers. His excellent showing with the youth side did not convince previous manager Jose Mourinho enough though and he was denied a permanent place in the first team squad.
On 2nd June, Jese broke a 20-year-old record by outscoring Real Madrid legend Emilio Butragueno, raising his tally to 22 strikes with Castilla this past season and surpassing the famous striker who had clocked up 21 goals 30 years earlier.
There are now significant voices calling for Jese's permanent integration in the first team this coming season, one of which is Zidane. The soon-to-be assistant coach highly values the 20-year-old and has a history of having an eye for talent, having persuaded compatriot Raphael Varane to snub Manchester United and make the switch to Real Madrid. The young Frenchman repaid Zidane's faith by being a revelation in the Spanish league last term.
Rather than going out on loan to gather more experience, Zidane has expressed his support for Jese's permanent inclusion as a forward in the first team. The player's class is beyond doubt and talk of a new contract for Jese, to ward off interest from sides such as Tottenham Hotspur, is welcome.
A threat to Jese's development however could be Gareth Bale. The Welshman is top of Florentino Perez’s wishlist this summer and the potential arrival of the Tottenham man could see very limited playing time for the 20-year-old. Growing frustrated with this situation and with his contract expiring in a year, Jese recently said that he was contemplating several options regarding his future: “I don't know what the club want. They want to renew, I suppose, but I have to admit that I don’t know what is going to happen. When this [FIFA Under-20 World Cup] is over, we will talk to anyone who wants to talk."
But would discarding him in favour of Bale be the smartest move for the club? The 2013 PFA Player of the Year commands a very high asking price and perhaps that money would be best spent on other matters – such as improving Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract.
With Jose Callejon likely to depart this summer, Jese will have the chance to compete with Angel di Maria for a place on the flanks. Confident on either side, he could slot seamlessly into any formation that Ancelotti adopts, whether it is 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. His performances over the past seasons – and especially during 2012/13 – should entitle him to a spot in the Italian’s line-up.
At AC Milan, Ancelotti built one of the best sides in the game, a team which made their mark in the Champions League record books. A mixture of Italians such as legend Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Andrea Pirlo, coupled with foreign talent in the form of Andriy Shevchenko, Clarence Seedorf and Kaka, made the Rossoneri a respectable European force, and the signs are pointing towards a simulation of this project at Real Madrid; for each Mesut Ozil, Perez will want the team to contain an Isco; behind Karim Benzema, an Alvaro Morata. And fans will be hoping that Ronaldo will have a young Jese under his tutelage.