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Jesé may have turned 21 the day Real Madrid CF stormed to a 6-1 UEFA Champions League win at FC Schalke 04 last month, but the Canary Islander has long been considered key at the club he joined aged 14.
The forward's rise through the Madrid ranks – reserve debut at 15, senior promotion by José Mourinho in summer 2011 and first-team bow that December – has been mirrored by his international ascent. Jesé helped Spain to the 2010 UEFA European Under-17 Championship final before top-scoring in their 2012 U19 triumph and, after a U21 breakthrough, being publically considered by Vicente del Bosque for the senior FIFA World Cup squad.
In a campaign where he has become a first-team regular, Jesé has made four UEFA Champions League outings and with the seeming formality of Schalke's last-16 visit on Tuesday imminent, he told UEFA.com about his ambitions and what he has learned from Cristiano Ronaldo.
UEFA.com: How has it been being a full part of the first-team squad this season?
Jesé: It's been a gigantic step, because you come from the third level up into the first. So the steps you take get bigger and bigger, and then you start playing with world-class players, different kinds of players. There are really a lot of fantastic players at Real Madrid and you have to compete with them. You experience Champions League matches in a totally different way to league or cup games.
UEFA.com: What are the European nights like?
Jesé: I can see now as a Real Madrid player, having experienced them since I was a boy going to the stadium, that those nights are full of passion and that the fans live them in a very special and different way to other matches. They have a lot of passion.
UEFA.com: But there must be added pressure from the fans?
Jesé: I deal with it very well, because the fans want the young players to do well. There are a lot of us playing in the first team so we always have their support. But the fans are very demanding as well, so it is a constant test, not only for the young players but also for the players who have been in the team longer. We all try to do our best.
UEFA.com: How is it training with, and playing alongside, the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo?
Jesé: To begin with it was strange but then, when you manage to deal with the whole world watching you and you watching yourself, you get confidence from that and from seeing that you are doing well. So now I am just another member of the team. Well no, not really, as they have been playing for years at a high level, and are regulars, but the more you see it as normal, the better it is.
UEFA.com: What have you gained from working alongside FIFA Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo?
Jesé: You learn a lot from Cristiano every day. It's clear to me especially and to all my team-mates that he is the best. He deserves all the awards there are, he's a great professional. The thing that has most impressed me is the ambition he shows every day.
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