Nobody who followed Spain‘s progress at the 2017 Under 21 European Championships will have been surprised by Dani Ceballos’ masterly display at Wembley that helped Arsenal claim their fourth FA Cup in six years.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s double in the final against Chelsea highlighted Arsenal’s need to agree a new contract with their top scorer, yet securing a deal for Ceballos – who spent last season on loan from Real Madrid – is surely just as important.
Since the restart, Ceballos has been a model of consistency in Mikel Arteta’s improving, though unpredictable, Arsenal team – just as he was in Poland three years ago.
Arsenal desperately need to secure the permanent future of Real Madrid loanee Dani Ceballos
In a stellar Spain squad containing players like Saul Niguez, Marco Asensio and Marcos Llorente, Ceballos started the campaign on the bench but was so impressive when he forced his way into the team that he was named player of the tournament, even though Spain were beaten in the final by Germany.
Two years later, Ceballos was at the heart of the Spanish team again as they went one better and clinched the title in Italy.
Wembley showed Ceballos at his best again after two difficult years in Madrid, where he moved for £16.2million from Real Betis thanks in part to those performances in Poland.
Even though Ceballos said at Wembley that ‘Madrid are better than any club in the world’, it is difficult to envisage him finding a spot in their midfield while Zinedine Zidane is coach.
Ceballos was named player of the tournament at the 2017 Under 21 European Championships
Two years later, Ceballos (right) was at the heart of the Spanish team again as captain
They would go one better from the U17 tournament and would lift the Under 21 title with Spain
Sources in Spain indicate there is little future for Ceballos under Zidane, leaving the door open for Arsenal to try to seal the permanent signing this summer. Yet they are unlikely to be the only ones in the frame.
Valencia have shown an interest before while Betis could give Ceballos the chance to return to Seville, his home city, and the 23-year-old appears attracted by the idea.
He said: ‘I’ve a lot of love for Betis, for everyone that works at the club. They know the love I have for them and we’ve been in contact all season. Betis means a lot to me.
‘We’ll see about my future. I’m not thinking about whether or not I can play for Real Madrid, Arsenal or another club.
Betis could give Ceballos the chance to return to Seville if things don’t work out in Madrid
The 23-year-old came through the ranks at Betis before securing a move to the Bernabeu
‘Now it’s time to disconnect. I have to be calm and think clearly with my family about the coming year.’
Where coaches previously struggled to find Ceballos’ best position, he has thrived in central midfield in Arteta’s 3-4-3 system.
His struggles with injury in the early part of the season are behind him and since…