Dani Ceballos is on the cusp of transitioning from exciting Spanish prospect to a full-on Galactico after Real Madrid activated his $15 million release clause this summer. The 20-year old made 30 LaLiga appearances for Real Betis this past season, but it was at this summer’s Under-21 European Championships in Poland that Ceballos made headlines and started trending on social media.
Among him at the international tournament were other young stars, all of them putting to rest any doubt of Spain’s future infrastructure (if there ever was doubt), with Marcos Llorente, Saúl Niguez, Marco Asensio, and Jesús Vallejo leading Spain to a final that ultimately saw them lose 1-0 to Germany.
Despite this, Ceballos was part of an insanely talented squad that had people wondering if they were capable of beating senior-level teams. That question will never be answered, but it is fun to dream, of course. However, the question of Ceballos’ achieving the level of expectation at Real Madrid is something we do not have to dream for; he is a Blanco now, and we’re going to see what he’s capable of at the highest level.
Before I break down the central midfielder’s skill set, I’d like to analyze the potential situation he’s facing at Real Madrid. Ceballos, for all the promise shown at Betis and this past U-21 Euros, is not the finished product. This probably goes without saying. However, if James Rodriguez, who recently left for Bayern Munich to reunite with Carlo Ancelotti, was in a similar situation as Ceballos in 2014, and not even he could crack Zinedine Zidane’s world-class XI, what makes us so sure the young Spaniard can?
Obviously, the Colombian and the Spaniard are different. James is a natural #10, while the former Betis man is a more adept central midfielder that thrives on positional play. With that said, I’d say that Ceballos is closer to Isco, another player who was in a similar spot to Ceballos three years ago, than James.
My prediction is that he will slowly be integrated into Zidane’s XI by taking up Isco and Mateo Kovacic’s minutes in a gradual and very much ‘see how you do’ manner.
Some have called the Ceballos the “next Andrés Iniesta” and while the player is very good in a possession-based system, especially in link-up play and more so in perfectly timed through-balls, he is more selfish a footballer that the pale genius ever was and is.
As a result, I don’t like that comparison.
However, his take-on success rate is very high, and that is why I think he’s more aptly defined as a selfish Isco. Per Squawka, his 38 chances created in the Spanish Primera was the second-most in the entire Betis squad last campaign. It was his take-on success rate, however, that really impressed me – 79 successful from 116 attempted, which equals a 68 percent success rate.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Ceballos was in the Spanish media for things other than football. Back in 2015, right before the Copa del Rey final at the Camp Nou, Athletic Club and Barcelona supporters whistled and booed the Spanish national anthem.
It was at this time when Ceballos decided to take to Twitter and express his feelings on the matter. He said he hoped a bomb be dropped “on the stands and kill those Catalan and Basque dogs.”
There were other insults at other LaLiga players, both on and off the field during his mid- to late teen years, but the social media antics have since stopped and Ceballos is only known for his dribbling and for his ferocious, unfriendly attitude on the pitch.
His heavily documented Spanish nationalism will definitely be welcomed in Madrid, and I predict he will gradually become a household name. Furthermore, I think El Clásico will get a whole lot more interesting with Ceballos in it.
By: Carlo Valladares/@C_V_News
Photo: Louie Hendy/@LH_BCFC