In an interview on Spanish radio this Thursday, Dani Ceballos has spoken of the frustration he felt last season due to the lack of opportunities given to him by Zinedine Zidane. During the frank discussion, the Spanish midfielder admitted that he would have searched for a new club had Zidane stayed on as coach this season.
"It's something for him to explain, why I didn't get opportunities. I worked, I tried to make [his decisions] difficult for him, but a moment comes when you see it's impossible. I scored two goals in Vitoria and the next game I played one minute against Dortmund,” he told Radio Marca.
“If Zidane had continued, I would obviously have looked for an exit.”
Ceballos believes that he was so out of favour with Zidane, that the French coach even changed the system in order to field other players before him, something that, for him, was both hard to understand and hard to take.
“There was a moment of the season when Kroos and Modric were injured and he changed the system to put other players in. That burns a little and hurts you,” he explained.
A new lease of life with Lopetegui
Since Julen Lopetegui’s arrival, things have changed for the 24-year-old. At this point last year, with Zidane in charge, Ceballos had not featured in any of the three league matches played nor in the Uefa Supercup, and had to make do with a 10-minute runout in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup against Barcelona.
So far this season, under Lopetegui, he has featured in three of the four competitive fixtures that Madrid has played, including the Uefa Supercup, and has only been left out for the LaLiga game against Girona. In total he has clocked up 127 minutes in those three games – almost 13 times more than the amount of game time he had at this point last season.
Despite the respect he has for Zidane, someone he has admired since he was a boy, it is clear that life at Real Madrid is much happier now for Ceballos with Lopetegui at the helm.
"I was on vacation and I saw [the news] on social networks, I did not expect it, but I think he's the best coach we could have,” the former Betis player said on Lopetegui’s appointment.
No grudge against Zidane
Although Ceballos was clearly frustrated with his situation under Zidane, he stressed that he does hold a grudge against his former coach.
"It's not a grudge. I came having had a great Euro Under-21 tournament, being the best player, to being ostracised right from the start,” he explained.
"Last year was not a good year for me but, as a footballer, he's given me maturity. He was always clear with me and I don't hold a grudge. I followed him from when I was little and he was always a star wherever he played, so maybe he didn't know how it feels for a player to be on the bench.”