“After 10 years at Real Madrid I had to take a new path and head to a club that would allow me to grow as a player. Here I will have more opportunities and more playing time to show my talent.”
This hopeful statement was said by the Real Madrid player Jese Rodriguez as he was moving to Paris Saint German in last August. Indeed, the Spaniard had reason for hope. After a decent few seasons at Real Madrid, where the presence of Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale meant that the youngster was always an afterthought, he was moving to a similarly big club, managed by a fellow Spaniard and where a huge Zlatan-shaped void had just opened up.
So, to say that he must be disappointed after just 3 starts in 14 appearances (in all competitions) in the first half of the season at PSG, is a huge understatement. Despite scoring two goals (one penalty) in these sporadic opportunities, it seems that Jese has not been able to convince Unai Emery of his capabilities. To an extent, Jese being a second-choice forward at PSG is also understandable as the front three of Cavani, Lucas Moura and Di Maria are pretty solid for PSG as well. It seems that Jese chose a club with the same problem (of plenty), just in a different European capital.
The Spaniard will have to move again during this January window if he is to salvage his season and establish a name for himself. And apparently, he is being pursued by many suitors. Although perhaps he himself would like a move to Las Palmas, his childhood club but finances would not allow him to play for them. In that context, only the clubs with slightly deep pockets can get Jese. Roma, AC Milan, Liverpool and Middlesbrough – all are potential suitors.
In this post, I try to understand if it makes any symbiotic sense for Liverpool to buy Jese to aid in what is likely going to be a long title chase over the second half of the Premier League season.
From the Club’s Point of View
The general understanding among fans and pundits seems to be that Liverpool needs at least one more forward player in January to make a real charge at the title this season. This makes sense as any long term absence from its current forwards could mean drop in points and momentum – the kind that the club has seen since Phillippe Coutinho was injured against Sunderland in November. Sadio Mane’s loss to Africa Cup of Nations in January is also a reason, why it is widely believed that Klopp might go after a good forward in January. Should Jese be that forward?
While he does not have a lot of minutes under his belt, Jese Rodriguez definitely has pedigree. Having started his senior career at Real Madrid Castilla in Liga Adelante. In his first full season for the Real Madrid B side, he scored 22 and assisted 12 goals in the 2012-13 season, grabbing a spot on the Real Madrid squad from 2013-14 onwards. In three seasons, chances came to Jese sporadically but he made the most of them, scoring 18 and assisting 16 goals in 3,112 minutes, contributing a goal every 91 minutes. In fact, in his last season at Real Madrid, he scored 5 and assisted 7 in just 823 minutes on the pitch, meaning he contributed a goal every 68 minutes, which would be considered outstanding in any other team.
Jese can play on both the wings as well as the center, however it seems that he prefers the wings. He has scored and assisted equally well from both wings. But if he is to avoid the predicament that has followed him at Real Madrid and PSG both, he has to be better than the choices Klopp has at the moment.
Below, I am using CIES Football Observatory’s rating framework to compare Jese with Liverpool’s current set of forwards.
As we can see, Jese and most of Liverpool forwards are not so great at tackling opponents (rigour refers to dueling). Jese’s Recovery stats (primarily interceptions) are pretty decent, as they are better than Mane, Sturridge and Origi. Distribution-wise too, he is comparable or better than almost all forwards at Liverpool, except Coutinho. In fact, if we leave out Coutinho, Jese’s Take On and Chance Creation are both better than or at least comparable to Liverpool’s forwards – especially Firmino and Mane. In shooting, other than Mane all Liverpool forwards are better than Jese.
From these stats, it is evident that Jese would be a pretty decent purchase for Liverpool and he may definitely come in handy, if any of the forwards have to be absent for a long period. In fact, he may be helpful immediately as he seems to be a handy replacement of Sadio Mane, who is out for another month or so. In the long term, Klopp could use him to fill a Coutinho shaped void, should an offer from Barcelona materialize in the summer. Moreover, Jese would be available at a fraction of the price that Coutinho would command in future.
From the Player’s Perspective
For Jese, it is imperative that he gets as much first team football as possible. This could prove to be difficult at Liverpool, as Coutinho is fit to play again and Mane is gone only for a month. Unless an injury befalls either of these two or Roberto Firmino, it is difficult to imagine Jese getting a lot of game time. However, in the longer run such a move would make sense. It is possible that either Coutinho or Firmino get poached from Liverpool by the richer clubs in Spain. In that case, Jese could find himself being a first-choice player. Also, he is a provider of goals and in Sturridge and Origi, Liverpool possess two strikers who can strike a fruitful partnership with the Spaniard. So, in the long run a move to Liverpool might be the right one for Jese, given his stated aim to grow and get more game time.
His only other choice in Premier League seems to be Middlesbrough managed by Karanka, who spent some time with Jese when he was the assistant manager at Real Madrid. Middlesbrough do need a goal scorer immediately but one cannot foresee a long career at such a club for a talent like Jese. It would be a stepping stone for him and then he would find himself moving again to a club within the Premier League or elsewhere.
All in all, it seems that Liverpool could be a good destination for Jese, especially if Klopp can land him at a bargain price and convince him that the first team football he craves so much will come gradually from next season.