Mark Hughes’ Football Manager hoodoo: Can Jesé Rodriguez break the mould?

If you’re a football fan with a half decent computer, you’ve probably played Football Manager at least once in your life. It seems Stoke City boss Mark Hughes has and his move for Jesé Rodriguez is proof of it.

The deal is seen as something of a coup for Hughes, who is looking to fill the Marko Arnautovic-shaped hole in his team. In reality, we should have all seen it coming. You see, with Jesé ending up in the Potteries, he joins something of an illustrious list at the bet365 stadium.

Stoke currently boast four Champions League winners in their squad and he will take that tally up to five upon his arrival. It is not that list we’re talking about though.

No, this list is far more glamorous. This is a list of players who have all been Football Manager heroes in previous iterations of the game.

Seriously, take a look at Mark Hughes list of signings since joining the club in 2013. Among the likes of Lee Grant, Stephen Ireland and Joe Allen sit some stellar names.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay, Bruno Martins Indi and Bojan have all played for big European clubs. All of them have been Football Manager superstars on one, if not several, versions of the game.

Jesé is another such player. He hasn’t hit the heights in real life, but in Sports Interactive’s world, he’s been a superstar for several years.

In the 2014 version of the game, he was one of the wonderkids to watch. By the 2016 version, he was one of those gem players an astute FM player could mould into a star.

Unfortunately, Hughes’ obsession with signing former Football Manager stars is yet to really pay off for him.

Sure, the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Bojan have provided some excellent moments, but are they Premier League stars? Definitely not. The latter couldn’t even get into the Potters line-up last year.

So, can Jesé be the man to buck the trend? The evidence suggests he could be. First and foremost, he’s obviously a player with some ability to his name – you don’t play for Real Madrid and PSG if you don’t have that.

The current PSG man is also a player with a lot of experience under his belt, despite just being 24-year-old – his time with Madrid saw him pick up two Champions Leagues and a La Liga title.

How well he replaces Arnautovic will be the true measure of this move, though, and the evidence from last season suggests he can do that easily. 

On a per 90-minute basis, he managed more goals, more successful passes and take-ons than the Austrian did, an impressive feat given he played 1552 minutes fewer.

He was behind when it came to chance creation and assists but given Stoke only managed 41 goals last season, it’s easy to imagine Mark Hughes is more concerned with his ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

The fact the move is one he wants is a big positive also. He nearly joined Middlesbrough last year and that shows he’s determined to make a name for himself in England, regardless of the clubs. It also shows he’s willing to slog it out and do the hard work to achieve that goal. That could be a major bonus for Stoke City.

If there is one criticism of Arnautovic, it’s that he sometimes just isn’t all that bothered; Shaqiri is another such player.

Ultimately, only time will tell if Jesé Rodriguez proves to be a good signing for Mark Hughes at Stoke. There’s obviously talent there to be unleashed but it takes more than talent to be a success in England.

There are signs that he could prove to be a real coup, though. Hughes will certainly be hoping so, as his obsession with Football Manager is yet to pay off for him.

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