Dani Ceballos’ first season at Real Madrid has been defined by a lack of time on the turf. The central midfielder has featured for a mere 284 minutes across nine matches. When Zinedine Zidane looks to his bench to change the complexion of a match, he does not focus his gaze on Ceballos. Yet the former-Real Betis man is providing Zidane with food for thought after a string of positive performances.
Ceballos shines for La Rojita
His most recent exhibition came in Spain Under-21’s comprehensive victory over Slovakia, in which Ceballos scored a spectacular hat-trick in a 5-1 win.
He has represented La Rojita on three occasions this campaign. All three ended in victories for Spain, and Ceballos played the full 90 minutes in each. He feels important when he pulls on the national team shirt, and he contributes with daring performances and goals. His situation at Real Madrid is very different.
With the first Madrid derby at a sold-out Wanda Metropolitano fast approaching, it appears practically impossible that Ceballos will force his way in to the starting line-up. The immovable trio of Modric, Kroos, and Casemiro means that the most Ceballos can hope for is to be Zidane’s first choice substitute.
Alavés performance a sign he is ready
The 21-year-old has started three matches for Los Blancos this season: against Alavés, Eibar, and Fuenlabrada. His performance against the former in Vitoria deserves elaboration. Ceballos scored twice to save Madrid from what would have been a disastrous result at Mendizorroza. He did not find the net against Fuenlabrada or Eibar, but played well in both matches. His participation in the Champions League has been limited to 17 minutes against APOEL and a one-minute cameo against Borussia Dortmund.
Despite his lack of opportunities, Ceballos has caught the eye when given a chance to express himself on the pitch. He is still young and is viewed more as a future prospect rather than a key player in the present. Yet he has shown Zidane that he is perfectly capable of rising to the demands of first-team football at Real Madrid.