As from today, Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio enter a key moment in their contractual status with Real Madrid. Their contracts will expire in June 2023 - both are now in the final 12 months at the club. The common practice with players who clubs are keen to hang onto is to start negotiations two years before their contracts are up. But that hasn’t been the case with these two, who will be free to leave in 12 months’ time and haven’t had an offer to renew. Both are good players, who play in different positions and possess different characteristics, but decent players nevertheless. There was a moment when both of them had the chance to cement their place at Real Madrid and the national team - but maybe that ship has now sailed for them.
They are two different cases. Ceballos, developed in the youth teams at Betis, didn’t get off to a good start with Zidane, a flippant attitude as perceived by the coach, I’m told. He fared much better under Solari but Solari didn’t last very long in the job and when he left, any plans to renew Ceballos’ contract went to pot. In hindsight, there was no need to. There was never any chance of dislodging Madrid’s midfield trio: Modric, Casemiro and Kroos, effectively leaving Ceballos with an uphill task. He had the chance to show off his qualities at the Tokyo Olympics, but in a stroke of bad luck, injured his foot in a wayward tackle during the first game and spent the next few months recovering. Ancelotti admitted that he treated him a little unfairly, but how could he have done otherwise with his midfield trio performing so well? And now the competition for a place is even greater. Betis await his return.
Asensio’s case meanwhile is different. He did have opportunities to lock down a place in the side. He enjoyed a spectacular start, playing a key role in the Super Cup against Barça, and looked like a player who would hold down his place in the side for many years. But even before he suffered a knee injury there were signs of laziness creeping in. Once he lost the enthusiasm of being the new kid on the block he was never the same. His knee injury left him in limbo, but once he was back to full fitness, he wasn’t the same player. He lacks speed, grit… He has talent, he’s a good passer of the ball and has a decent shot but what was there before has gone. He hasn’t managed to keep Rodrygo out of the side, and now Hazard is ahead of him in the pecking order… Jorge Mendes has started the search to find him a new club.