Real Madrid were reluctant to include a purchase option in the loan contract of Dani Ceballos as they sent the midfielder to Arsenal for a season last summer. There was an acceptance that while the 23-year-old needed first team football, he still had a future at the Santiago Bernabeu. North London looked to be the perfect place to show what he can do.
Ceballos’ loan at Arsenal hasn’t exactly gone to plan, though. The Spaniard has struggled for form and fitness, becoming something of a forgotten figure as the Gunners have suffered a season they won’t want to remember. When he signed, Arsenal had hoped Ceballos could be persuaded to stay. Now, it seems they are counting down the days until he returns to the Spanish capital.
What future will Ceballos have at the Santiago Bernabeu, though? A lot has changed since the 23-year-old left, with Fede Valverde emerging as a key figure in the centre of Real Madrid’s team. Indeed, the Uruguayan is now one of the first names on Zinedine Zidane’s team sheet with Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric left to fight for just two starting places.
Of course, Ceballos is a very different type of player to Valverde, but with the Uruguayan filling a position that Kroos could have feasibly performed, the scope for breaking into the Real Madrid team has narrowed. What’s more, Isco has enjoyed something of a career renaissance in recent months and so it’s difficult to see what Ceballos could offer Zidane that the Frenchman doesn’t already have.
There is a feeling that Ceballos could benefit from a fresh start. He is an extremely talented player, but at both Arsenal and Real Madrid he hasn’t been harnessed. Recent speculation has linked the midfielder with a move to Valencia. That’s the sort of move that could see him rediscover the form that made him so sought after at Real Betis.
Ceballos must also take responsibility for his own poor performances. Injuries have seriously hindered him this season, but he has been too passive when he has made it on to a football pitch. The 23-year-old must start taking games by the scruff of the neck. Ceballos is moving into a crucial stage of his career if he is to fulfil his very obvious potential. He can’t waste any more time.
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