It may not always be greener on the other side but on some occasions, it could can the dynamics of everything. A player who best fits this bill at the moment is Dani Ceballos. On paper, his season-long loan move to Arsenal might have looked like a downgrade (moving from a Champions League side to a Europa League side) but so far it has proved to be one of the best decisions he made. The Spaniard is enjoying life away from Real Madrid and has conceded he is happy at his current club. A statement which may mean some tough choices will have to be made at the end of the season. One which Zinedine Zidane will be hoping plays out in his favour.
Bar his game at Liverpool where he was played out of position, the 23-year-old has enjoyed the start to his Arsenal career and said his debut against Burnley was one of the most special days of his life. Ceballos made an impressive two assists in the first 45 minutes of his debut and literally had a perfect game which saw him named the man-of-the-match.
Dani Ceballos' game by numbers vs. Burnley:
100% take-ons completed
90% pass accuracy
4 take-ons completed
4 chances created
3 fouls won
2 tackles made
No one could get near him. 💃 pic.twitter.com/3DwPY1oCkG
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
However, all good things come to an end and Ceballos would have to return back to Real Madrid as Arsenal were not able to secure a deal with an obligation to buy when his loan deal is over.
Over the past two seasons, Ceballos saw his appearances limited at the Spanish side, particularly under Zinedine Zidane in the 2017-18 season. He then decided to join the Gunners on a temporary deal for the current campaign after the Frenchman returned to the Santiago Bernabeu in March.
Switch to Arsenal where Ceballos has already played 11 times for the Gunners in all competitions (Transfermarkt), scoring one goal and assisting two others – and if he can claim a regular place in the starting lineup then Arsenal can be confident of the bookmakers shortening their odds to win the Europa League this season.
Ceballos’ run in the Arsenal team has resulted in him being called up to the Spain squad for their Euro 2020 qualifiers against Norway and Sweden. Showing how much regular game-time can out a player in the spotlight and see his pedigree improve generally.
Ceballos has featured in every one of Arsenal’s eight league games this season, starting five, and is relishing a more size-able role after finding himself on the fringes at Real Madrid.
Asked in a press conference at Spain’s training base on Tuesday if he had any regrets about that decision, given that Madrid have had injuries in midfield this term, Ceballos said as quoted by the Express:
“Going to Arsenal has been a very important step in my career,” he said at a press conference with the Spanish national team. “I don’t feel sorry for not being in Madrid. Right now I am where I want to be and I am very happy.
“Real Madrid are in pretty good shape. I know there are a few injured.
“[But] I’m at Arsenal now, I feel pretty good. I was clear that I wanted to leave. Leaving Madrid was the right decision. Right now, I am where I want to be and I’m very happy.
“My idea was to leave, to play and to enjoy football. In the two previous seasons, I hadn’t done that. It was the right decision. The fact that I’m here with the Spanish national team shows that.”
“I could play the Euros and the Olympic Games,” he said. “It would be a dream for me to be in Tokyo.”
Dani Ceballos surely has a big decision on his hands but if his statements are anything to go by, he seems to have answered the burning questions himself. It’s obvious Zinedine Zidane doesn’t rate him well enough and hence the ease with which he was sent out on loan.
Under Zidane at Madrid, Ceballos played just 16% of the total playing time (1,077 minutes out of a possible 6,570) in a season and a half. Ceballos only missed four games due to injury and scored three goals for Madrid. (Transfermarkt).
It might not be Zidane’s total fault as the crop of players he had under his belt then were probably way ahead of Ceballos. But with the likes of Luka Modric currently ageing and struggling, Toni Kroos also getting more recurring injuries, Dani Ceballos might be a key figure for Madrid when he returns to the Spanish capital. Something Zidane will be well aware of already.
Compare to Arsenal where Unai Emery has used Ceballos in all 11 of Arsenal’s games so far this season – Ceballos has featured in the starting Xi or come off the bench and has played 57% of the total playing time (566 minutes out of a possible 990 via Transfermarkt).
The message is clear and it’s the obvious fact that Ceballos is more valued at Arsenal and if career development is his ultimate target, then he should find a way to remain with the North London side.
However, the fact that Ceballos transfer was without an option to buy despite Raul Sanllehi and the Arsenal hierarchy attempting to negotiate one could mean Real Madrid still see the Spaniard as a prospect who could play a major role for them in the coming years. And based on his form at Arsenal so far, they will be happy at the transfer details regarding the 23-year-old’s contract at Arsenal.
Also, his inclusion in the Arsenal side saw him earn a call-up to the Spanish side and that all but indicates total positivity regarding his move to Arsenal. While the prospect of playing regular football with Hazard and co might appeal to Ceballos, the Spaniard should be wary of the volatile nature of Real Madrid as a whole. The spending power Real Madrid have up their sleeves means the situation regarding a player can change in a flash. The 23-year-old might currently look fit to secure a starting spot in the current Los Blancos lineup but an addition of one or two players in no time changes everything.
Over the past few months, Real Madrid have been linked with a number of top midfielders from Paul Pogba to Christian Eriksen and N’golo Kante. In the very possible scenario where Zidane secures the services of as much as one of these players, it could be back to square one for Ceballos and he could find himself surplus to requirements once more.
The 23-year-old has a big decision to make for himself but as it stands Arsenal is looking like a better long-term option for Ceballos to develop his career.