- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

MADRID (AP) - How things have changed for Jese Rodriguez.

A few years ago, he was seen as a player with the potential to become one of the best forwards in the world with Real Madrid. Now he returns to the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, struggling with mid-table Las Palmas.

Jese will be facing Madrid for the first time since a difficult departure last summer.

“I owe a lot to Madrid,” Jese told Spanish daily Marca ahead of Wednesday’s game between the Spanish league leader and 12th-place Las Palmas. “It’s the team that welcomed me as a person and as a player since I was very young. I definitely won’t (celebrate) if I score, out of respect and admiration.”

Unable to establish himself as a starter with the Spanish powerhouse, Jese left to join Paris Saint-Germain in the hope of demonstrating his true ability. But he had little success with the French champions before being loaned to Las Palmas in the latest transfer window in January.

“I like him a lot as a player and a person,” Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “He’s got a lot of quality and a lot of potential. It didn’t go how he wanted at PSG and he was not able to show his talent. I hope he gets back to the level he was playing at before.”

Jese, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Sunday, was on course to break Raul Gonzalez’s goal-scoring record with Madrid before a serious ligament injury in his right knee sidelined him for nearly nine months in 2014.

“If it weren’t for the injury, I’d be an indisputable starter with Madrid,” Jese said. “It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact that the injury halted my career. Everything was harder after it happened.”

Jese had few chances to start after returning from the injury and felt he was being held back as a player.

“I didn’t leave because I wasn’t happy at Madrid, but I wanted more continuity, I wanted to play more,” Jese said.

He had the same problem at PSG - unable to start as many matches as he wanted and happy to join Las Palmas.

It hasn’t been easy back at his hometown club, though, as Las Palmas has lost four straight games since Jese’s debut.

“I didn’t expect this (poor start), and I don’t like it,” Rodriquez said. “We have lost four in a row and I haven’t scored. Things haven’t gone the way I wanted.”

Jese arrived in the Canary Island amid high expectations as the club’s top signing in the transfer window, but he has already been criticized by some fans and local media after disappointing performances that included many missed scoring chances.

Jese said he will turn things around and will eventually succeed with Las Palmas, but doesn’t hide the fact that he would like to return to Madrid at some point in his career.

“You never know, I hope it happens one day,” he said. “It was the team that brought me to the world.”

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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