According to a report in MARCA, Real Madrid are considering keeping midfielder Dani Ceballos at the Bernabeu next season. Until today, reports had Ceballos either extending his loan to Arsenal for another season or heading out on loan elsewhere in Spain or to Italy.
This latest news is a marked change from the prevailing wisdom that Ceballos’ time at Real Madrid was over. The reporting was that Zinedine Zidane did not consider the Spaniard part of his long term plans.
But Madrid’s elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Manchester City and the financial hardships caused by COVID-19 may have changed things. Los Blancos are reportedly short on transfer funds and the return of Ceballos and Martin Ødegaard from their respective loans could be the injection of fresh blood that Zidane’s side needs. According to MARCA, Zidane would like both players to participate in a full Madrid preseason before making a decision on where they will spend next season.
Ceballos has said on several occasions that he would like to succeed at Real Madrid, which is entirely his prerogative. I can’t fault a Spanish footballer for wanting to play for the biggest team in La Liga.
But we should take MARCA’s report with a massive grain of salt. For starters, such an abrupt course reversal raises red flags. Obviously things can change, but if I had to pick between months of reporting and one report that appeared out of nowhere, I’m going with the consistent story.
We should also consider the source and the timing. MARCA is generally pretty good with La Liga news, but Real Madrid stories, particularly single-sourced Real Madrid stories, don’t happen unless the club wants them to. This feels just like when Arsenal tell David Ornstein what it wants the story to be to frame the discussion / send a message to a player or club.
As for timing, it’s been widely reported that Madrid’s transfer war chest is lighter than usual. How convenient, then, that a story that creates demand for and raises the price of one of their assets just happens to come out early in the transfer window?
Combine all that with the reporting that Atletico Madrid are steadfastly demanding that Thomas Partey will not move for less than his 50M release clause paid in lump sum and it paints a pretty clear picture for me.
Real Madrid need money. They have something Arsenal want. And they are trying to drive up the price.
Arsenal need Ceballos much more than Real Madrid do, and both clubs know that. His recent strong performances to end the season reinforced that point. The Gunners are thin at the base of the midfield, especially with Matteo Guendouzi looking likely to leave. Not bringing Ceballos back would be a blow to Mikel Arteta’s plans that would prove expensive to rectify, or at least more expensive than another year of Ceballos would be.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think Ceballos will be with Real Madrid next season. My money is still on him spending another season in London.