The curious case of Dani Ceballos at Real Madrid

RC Celta v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander
RC Celta v Real Madrid CF - LaLiga Santander

Real Madrid signed Dani Ceballos in 2017 for nearly €18 million after his phenomenal performances for Real Betis. Ceballos was considered the best young talent in the league during his time at Los Verdiblancos. Everyone had high expectations of him but it all ended in disappointment as he didn't get many minutes under Zinedine Zidane.

Dani Ceballos stats - 2017-18

Total 17/18:222----898'

Ceballos himself admitted that 2017-18 was a lost season for him under Zidane at the club. Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were in their prime back then and even Mateo Kovacic was ahead of him in the pecking order. So, it was difficult for him to get enough minutes to prove his worth.

Kovacic left for Chelsea the following season and Ceballos was expected to feature more. However, his playing time was further reduced under Julen Lopetegui. In the 2019-20 season, he went to Arsenal on loan and played an integral role in the second half of the season, making 24 Premier League appearances. He also started in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea.

He returned to Real Madrid after the loan spell but the Gunners re-signed him for another season. Mikel Arteta wanted him and he made some good friends at the club who convinced him to join the club again. He flew back to north London before their first Premier League game.

Dani Ceballos has re-signed for Arsenal on a season-long loan from Real Madrid.

Ceballos once again had a decent season at Arsenal, playing 2,369 minutes and registering three assists across all competitions. He eventually returned to Real Madrid at the end of his spell but was once again left baffled by the game time he got. He featured in 18 games only and registered one assist. Kroos, Modric, Eduardo Camavinga, Casemiro and Federico Valverde all started before him. Consequently, he failed to gain Ancelotti's trust and fell further down the pecking order.

Ceballos on the path of resurrecting his Real Madrid career?

The ongoing 2022-23 season has been a bit of a different story. Although Ceballos has not played as much as he would have liked to, he has already featured in 17 games across all competitions. He has started four out of 10 in La Liga matches this season. He has one shot on target from a total of one shot and is yet to score. Dani Ceballos averages 27 passes per match, with a pass completion rate of 93%, and has one assist. He has received one yellow card so far.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Super Cup
Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Super Cup

The stats do not do him justice as he has been much more influential. Whenever he is brought on as a sub, he brings energy to Los Blancos' midfield. The best match of his Real Madrid career came against Villarreal in the Copa del Rey round of 16. His team were down by two goals when Carlo Ancelotti brought him on for Kroos and Marco Asensio for Rodrygo. These substitutions changed the whole dynamic of the match.

After 34 minutes in the second half of the Copa del Rey clash, Ceballos had 32 touches, giving one assist to Vinicius Jr. and playing two key passes. He played a beautiful ball into the box in the build-up to Real Madrid’s first goal, a goal himself, gave three out of five accurate long balls, two important interceptions, and won three duels.

Wasn’t long ago Ceballos was among the Champions League bench mob that helped change games with his energy. In certain game states in the 2nd half he’s perfect. Been huge off the bench today.

He was given the well-deserved 'Man of the Match' award after a game-changing performance. Villarreal failed to cope with his tenacity and the energy and confidence he brought to the team was remarkable. He earned himself a spot in the starting XI ahead of Kroos away against Athletic Bilbao where he grabbed the opportunity and once again put on a brilliant display.

He was a constant in Real Madrid’s build up through the left and center of the pitch as he mostly occupies the left half-space. He finished the game with 78 touches (highest in the game), 51 passes at 93% passing accuracy, eight out of eight long balls completed, and had three tackles as well as three clearances. He was an all-around midfielder and put in a great shift.

His contract ends at the end of the season and has definitely made the club re-think about extending his contract as he provides squad depth. He could prove to be a big asset considering his low wages and exceptional performances for the Merengues.

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Edited by Shardul Sant
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