The star of the Euro Under-21 finals has just completed his €18m move to the capital but he is already one of the most controversial players in Spain
Prodigiously gifted Spain midfielder Dani Ceballos has been attracting attention for some time now, just not always for the right reasons.
When both Barcelona and Athletic Club supporters whistled the Spanish national anthem before the 2015 Copa del Rey final at Camp Nou, the Andalusian expressed his hope that a bomb be dropped “on the stands and kill those Catalan and Basque dogs”.
Real sign Ceballos from Betis
He had previous too, having labelled Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique “shameless” for celebrating Spain’s Euro 2012 success with the Semeyra flag before then adding: “Get out of the country, Catalans!”
There has also been a pro-Franco tweet, as well as dreadfully derogatory comments about Iker Casillas and his wife Sara Carbonero.
Even aside from his crude and offensive contributions to social media as a teenager, Dani had also come across as a petulant, dislikeable personality on the pitch.
When Betis relegated Getafe on the final day of the 2015-16 season with a 2-1 victory at the Benito Villamarin, he allegedly told crestfallen centre-back Cala, “I hope you go rot in the second division and the club disappears.”
It was a shame that what Dani was saying was overshadowing what he was doing. And what he had done.
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This was a talented playmaker who had been let go by Sevilla as a 13-year-old because he was understandably struggling with the effects of bronchitis.
Then, after making a name for himself with hometown club Utrera, he signed for Sevilla’s city rivals Betis and went from the Juvenil straight into the first team, at the age of 17.
By August 2015, Arsenal and Liverpool were vying for his signature. The following year, Atletico Madrid and Napoli entered the race.
However, Real Madrid have now acquired another potential superstar, a man already being touted as Luka Modric’s heir, for just €18 million.
It is the steal of the summer, as was so exhilaratingly underlined by his mesmerising display for Spain against Italy in the semi-final of the Euro Under-21 finals in Krakow last month.
Saul may have hit a hat-trick in the 3-1 win but it was Dani who ran the game, bewitching those in attendance and bemusing every Italian that tried to dispossess him.
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As MARCA noted on their front page, it had been both the Atletico Madrid ace’s “three goals and a great performance from Ceballos” that had earned La Rojita a place in the final.
His assist for Saul’s opener epitomised his vision and patience, with the 20-year-old turning down one potential pass before dropping his shoulder, shifting inside and then waiting until the very last second to allow his team-mate to advance into the Italian area before finding him with a perfectly-weighted ball.
However, there were two other moments which really took the breath away.
Firstly, the way in which he embarrassed Roberto Gagliardini with a casual nutmeg that resulted in the Inter midfielder losing his head and earning a second yellow card for chopping Dani down.
Then, minutes later, he embarked upon a run from the halfway line which saw him embarrass three further players clad in blue with subtle feints and effortless turns of pace.
It was a wonderful moment which instantaneously evoked memories of Andres Iniesta in his pomp – and it came as no surprise that Dani was eventually named Player of the Tournament in Poland.
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Barcelona were also interested in signing Dani this summer but it should come as no surprise that he chose Madrid – despite his admiration for Iniesta, as well as Lionel Messi. Indeed, in light of past comments, a move to Catalunya would have proven most awkward.
As result, Madrid are now in possession of another youngster with enormous potential. If he continues to let his football do the talking for him, he should have no problem realising it.