Stoke City are reportedly poised to conclude a sensational deal for Paris Saint-Germain forward Jese Rodriguez, after a season-long loan has been agreed between the two clubs, according to The Telegraph.
The agreement is a shrewd one with the Potters supposedly inserting an option to buy the player permanently for around £22 million next summer should he impress sufficiently in his time at the Bet365 Stadium.
Jese to Stoke could be one of the clever signings of the summer. He wants to play for Mark Hughes https://t.co/fwsH0ORP7y
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) August 14, 2017
Of course, the 24-year-old Spaniard’s impact in North Staffordshire is far from guaranteed, with the £18 million club record flop Giannelli Imbula as a sobering testament to the unpredictability of foreign recruits settling successfully in the English top flight.
The French midfielder was brought to the Potteries amidst dizzy excitement after making his switch from Porto in January 2016 but has since failed to make an impact and now looks likely to leave before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
Whilst disappointing fans with his inability to live up to his inflated transfer fee, Imbula’s example has left all at the club reticent to celebrate the arrival of big-name stars with unbridled optimism before they have even kicked a ball in anger.
Much like the former-Porto player, Jese arrives in England with a huge reputation and excellent pedigree, having risen through the Real Madrid youth academy, graduating to make 94 appearances for the first team and then moving in a €25 million (£22.7m) deal to Paris last summer.
During his time at the Santiago Bernabeu, comparisons were drawn to team mate Cristiano Ronaldo, possessing searing pace, a direct running style and exceptional technical ability.
These should be attributes alone to prompt even the most pessimistic of Stoke fans to drool at the prospect of the player strutting his stuff for the Potters this season. The Potters looked increasingly toothless and uninspiring during the last campaign and are in desperate need for extra spark in the attacking third.
Although Stoke will hope that Jese can provide fresh impetus to a blunt attack his recent form may provide a stark reality check.
The player failed to fully settle in France last year and in a similar fashion to Imbula in Portugal, his form suffered and his opportunities in the first team became limited.
As such, he was loaned out to his home town club Las Palmas in January scoring just three goals in 16 appearances for the La Liga side before the club passed up the opportunity to sign him permanently.
A recent interview with Imbula’s ex-team mate at Stoke, Shay Given, gave an insight into the life of a footballer unsuccessfully plying his trade in another country. The former-Irish goalkeeper suggested that while in the Potteries, his colleague had failed to master the language and seemed disinterested in integrating himself into the squad.
"I think it’s tricky like, last year I was at Stoke and the transfer record was Imbula for £18m. He’s come in from Porto and he’s literally not tried since he’s been there … He might have done this, done that, but he comes to a different country and doesn’t even learn how to say good morning to the rest of the team."We've been chatting to three FAIreland legends ahead of the Premier League kick off – here's a snippet of Given, Quinn, McAteer and Kilbane on when big money transfers go bust 💰You can hear the full chat tonight, or listen back wherever you get your podcasts 📻
Posted by Off The Ball on Wednesday, 9 August 2017
It is a stark reminder that although footballers earn huge amounts of money, they are still human beings and have lives to lead outside of the game. The difficulty of acclimatising to playing in a new culture and environment can not be overstated and inevitably affects performances on the pitch.
The example of Imbula is largely an isolated one, particularly when considering Stoke’s recent record of signing big-name players. The Frenchman aside, fans wishing to adopt an optimistic outlook over the signing of Rodriguez may wish to point to the example of Xherdan Shaqiri.
The diminutive Swiss forward arrived from Inter Milan in a £12 million deal in August 2015, after his promising career had stalled. Despite a number of injury set-backs the tricky winger has settled well and revived his career. He now plays an integral role in the team and has endeared himself to Potters’ supporters.
Players like Shaqiri, Marko Arnautovic, Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkic were all attracted to the club by the ambition signalled by manager Mark Hughes, as he set about realising the vision of taking the Potters to the next level and providing regular European football.
Whilst that dream has so far failed to become a reality, the atmosphere at the club has become rather gloomy in the last 18 months. Fans have justifiably questioned the ambition of the Stoke hierarchy after a disappointing 13th place finish last season and the departure of the talismanic Arnautovic to league rivals West Ham United earlier this summer.
Supporters have grown frustrated by the club’s perceived reluctance to invest in the squad.
Loanee Kurt Zouma and the free transfers of Hull youngster Josh Tymon, former-West Bromwich Albion captain Darren Fletcher and Cameroonian forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have given the impression that chairman Peter Coates has tightened the purse strings for the foreseeable future.
Of course, spending money is no guarantee for success but Stoke and their supporters are desperate for a shot in the arm to refresh the mood surrounding the club.
Signing Jese may or may not provide results on the pitch but perhaps most importantly will send a clear statement of intent that the Potters are still an attractive proposition to talented players wishing to reignite their careers and that those at the Bet365 Stadium still hold lofty ambitions of pushing the club forward.