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Dani Ceballos to Madrid?

AS reports Madrid is interested, but what would his role be?

Real Madrid CF v Real Betis Balompie - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

A 20-year-old was Real Betis’ best player this season and he goes by the name of Dani Ceballos. The youngster is extremely talented and Madrid have had him on their radar for years. The Whites came close to signing him in 2015 after the U19 European Championships. Many fans may be thinking, why sign him now? Where does he fit? What is the strategy? Well, let’s take a deeper look.

Racking up 64 appearances for Betis over the past two seasons, Ceballos has refined his skills and this season in particular, has taken on a leadership role on the pitch. He can play all across the midfield as a pure center-mid, a left-sided winger, an attacking mid, or a holding midfielder. His dribbling skills are akin to Kovacic and his eye for a pass is similar to Cesc Fabregas. Ceballos is not one dimensional; he is a two-way dynamic midfield player. Don’t be fooled by his silky smooth dribbling, Ceballos can tackle as well and averages about three tackles per game as well as two interceptions. To put it in perspective, Casemiro, Madrid's tough midfield general, averages about four tackles per game and two interceptions.

There have been questions about his attitude after a fallout with Former Betis boss Gus Poyet. In Real Betis’ nine opening games of the season, he started just one game and was an unused substitute in three. The fans ultimately pushed Poyet out of the club and among the many reasons for their dismay for the Uruguayan, was that he ostracized Ceballos. Once Víctor Sánchez del Amo took over as coach, Ceballos’ role changed and he was one of the first names on the team sheet.

James Rodriguez looks set to depart Madrid this summer, and instead of signing another Galactico-type midfielder, a la Eden Hazard, who would diminish the roles of Isco and Asensio among others, Zidane may be looking to fill that void with a Spanish talent in Ceballos. Madrid has clearly defined their new transfer policy to focus on as signing the best young talents in the game, especially promising Spanish talents. Like in 2013, after the success of the U21 Spanish National Team at the European Championships, Madrid went on to sign Isco and Illaramendi while promoting/re-signing the likes of Carvajal, Morata, and Nacho. The success of the U19 Spanish team in 2015, saw Madrid follow a similar theme in their transfer approach. The purchases of Jesus Vallejo, Marco Asensio, and promotion (and eventual loan) of academy product Borja Mayoral, all came off the back of that team’s success. The other major stand-out performer of the U19 Spanish team was Dani Ceballos. He was tempted by Madrid after that tournament, but decided to stay put at Betis. The allure of the white jersey may be too tempting this time around.

With Marcos Llorente almost certain to come back this summer and the growth and prominence of Isco, Kovacic, and Asensio this season, there is not much room in an already stacked midfield. Madrid’s youth ranks also bolster individuals such as Fede Valverde, Aleix Febas, and Martin Odeegard (on loan at Heerenveen) all of whom have potential to break into Madrid’s first team. Despite the ridiculous surplus of talent, Ceballos does have some advantages: he can play in multiple positions and fits a variety of systems, he is young, he has chemistry with the Spanish contingent of Madrid’s future (Asensio, Vallejo, Llorente, Mayoral), and Zidane is not a manager who is afraid to rotate nine out 11 players in his starting line-up. Ceballos has been heavily linked with Atletico Madrid this summer as well as previous links to Arsenal. Betis associate and negotiator, Rafael Alarcon, has already come out and denied that there has been in any contact with Madrid, but don’t be surprised if these rumours continue to heat up. If Zidane wants a young, creative two-way player to replace James Rodriguez then Ceballos is certainty an ideal option, though the selection headaches will only continue for the Frenchman. Time will tell if Madrid ultimately pulls the trigger, but it’s worthwhile to keep your an eye on this development and in particular, on Dani Ceballos.

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