Dani Ceballos has lived under the orders of Luis de la Fuente the moment that triggered his career and also the one that was about to end it. After that extreme roller coaster (from falling in love, to resentment, and from there, to peace), the Real Madrid footballer straightened out the coach’s debut on Saturday when he came on in the 57th minute and unlocked the game against Norway (3- 0). His reunion at the senior level occurs at another fundamental point for the footballer’s future at Madrid, where he ends his contract on June 30. He has not yet received a renewal offer, which is his preference if he sees options to be important, but he has received signs of interest from Atlético and Barcelona, according to sources familiar with the process.
In the 2017 European Under 21 Championship in Poland, Ceballos emerged as the fundamental player of the team led by De la Fuente. They lost the final against Germany (1-0), but he was anointed as the best footballer of the tournament, which precipitated his jump to the next step. His second season in the Betis first team had already attracted the attention of the greats, but the exhibition in the European showcase accelerated the movements.
Barcelona and Real Madrid disputed it. He doubted. Until the president of the white club, Florentino Pérez, telephoned him: “He told me that I was the future of Real Madrid’s midfield, that he wanted me to play for this club. I hung up the call and told my parents; “Tomorrow we’re going to Madrid and we’ll sign,” the player said a few days ago in an interview with Jorge Valdano.
The next determining episode under the baton of Luis de la Fuente happened four years later, in the summer of 2021. Ceballos was confident that the reunion for the Tokyo Olympics would help to boost him definitively in Madrid. He came from a bad year there with Zidane. They did not understand each other. But he knew that when he returned from Japan, Ancelotti was waiting for him, who had already tried to seduce him for one of his teams. But everything turned out backwards.
“It has been the worst moment as a footballer,” he said in the interview with Valdano. Ceballos landed in Tokyo in fantastic shape and with the exciting news of having the coach’s confidence. However, after just half an hour into the first match, against Egypt, he was stomped on by a teammate that shattered his right ankle. Although at first they thought it hadn’t been such a big deal.
The doctors determined that it was a sprain, which left open the possibility that it could return during the tournament. “I wanted to try, I wanted to play, and I made decisions that could have ended my career.” She agreed to an infiltration program while the selection was overcoming rounds. “I remember that one day before the final I tried to train. With almost a gram of corticosteroids, it still hurt. I decided not to play, and when I arrived here in Madrid the doctor told me: ‘Dani, if you’ve played 20 minutes, your sports career… You can’t play anymore, because you get a start of bone necrosis and you don’t play.’ They infiltrated me in the national team, but they didn’t tell me the cons”.
The effects of that episode were devastating. “Until after the World Cup in Qatar I did not feel release of the ankle. I think it has been a much tougher injury on a mental level than on a physical level ”. Without that ballast, he finally took off at Madrid, in the last of the six seasons he signed when he dazzled in the European Championship with De la Fuente. In the months that followed the World Cup, in which a certain general collapse of the team has been observed, he has been one of the most prominent.
In addition to leaving behind the physical scars of the Games incident, he, and his people, have long since forgotten their rage at the extreme risk to which they felt they had exposed him.
The appointment of De la Fuente as Luis Enrique’s successor was a joy for Ceballos, in his maturity at 26 years of age. They have maintained a fluid relationship, very trusting. They both know how hard the journey has been since their previous meeting, as the coach recalled the day he gave his first squad list: “It was hard for him to understand that these things happen. He was very excited about that competition. Surely with his collaboration we could have won gold. The good thing is that he is back ”.
And it has been very useful for him again, this time at the key moment of his debut as a coach. The effect of his entry into the field was described this Monday by Rodri, who was very close to him on Saturday at La Rosaleda: “Dani is one more player with ball possession, who treats the ball very well and occupies areas to take it from one side to another. And that gave us a little more control, a little more calm in that last third, which maybe we were lacking, ”he said. “The changes were very important to sentence the game.”
Shortly after these explanations, Ceballos was running through the grass of the mythical Hampden Park. He played with the ball while humming flamenco before the last training session for this Tuesday’s duel against Scotland (20.45, La1).
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook and Twitteror sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits