There are few better footballing educations to undergo than at the Real Madrid CF academy, and in Jose Rodriguez, 1. FSV Mainz 05 appear to have unearthed a player ripe for improvement amid the rigours of the Bundesliga.
The central midfielder may only be 21 years old, but stints at RC Deportivo la Coruna and Galatasaray AS, as well as his professional breakthrough at Real, belie his still tender years.
He may have struggled for regular playing time in the first team at Real Madrid and at his last club Galatasaray, but his early career achievements indicate his undoubted ability. Rodriguez signed his first professional contract in 2011 under Jose Mourinho and made his league debut against city rivals Club Atletico de Madrid in December 2012.
He also became Real’s youngest ever representative in the UEFA Champions League group stages when he came off the bench against AFC Ajax in 2012/13. Madrid’s manager at the time, Jose Mourinho, was obviously assured of his quality, and both the player and his new club will now hope that ability can be proven once again on a more regular basis.
“I’m ambitious and I want to become a better player at Mainz,” said the man from Alicante on signing for the 05ers, before confidently underlining the qualities that he hopes will make him a hit at the Opel Arena. “I’m a central defensive midfielder and my biggest assets are my aggression and game intelligence."
Such attributes would appear to make him an ideal fit at Mainz, where head coach Martin Schmidt has fostered a playing style high on running but with an emphasis on playing attractive football along the ground.
Having joined a side that finished sixth in the table to qualify for the UEFA Europa League, the incentive for Rodriguez to hit the ground running is obvious. However, there is also the still vacant spot in central midfield left by former captain Julian Baumgartlinger, who departed for Bayer 04 Leverkusen this summer.
Having watched some of Mainz’s games last season, Rodriguez is eager to get started alongside some familiar faces. “I had a fantastic chat with the coach and I saw from watching Mainz that they have a clear philosophy and that they play in the coach’s style. I know [Colombian striker] Jhon Cordoba and I know Jairo Samperio very well as we played together in Spain’s U-21 team.”
With pre-season now underway, Rodriguez will now be hoping to follow in the footsteps of Cordoba, Jairo and Argentine winger Pablo de Blasis, who have settled so well at the club, and establish himself in the first team. There can be no doubt that he is relishing the challenge.