Soccer

Where Arsenal stand on Ceballos transfer as he prepares to meet Real Madrid

Arsenal ended their 2019-20 campaign in the best possible way on August 1, landing the FA Cup at Chelsea's expense.

After a tumultuous campaign, Mikel Arteta’s men set down a marker by claiming the trophy at Wembley, thanks to two Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goals.

The Gabonese striker made the difference, as he did in the semi-final, and his future is a major priority for the Gunners, with just one year left on the skipper’s deal.

But another man who has been vital under Arteta is compatriot Dani Ceballos.

The midfielder has shone in a deep-lying midfield role under the ex-Manchester City No.2, his ability to pick a pass and change the direction of play underpinning Arteta’s side.

Unfortunately, the Real Madrid loanee’s contract at the Emirates Stadium is now up, and he’s heading back to the Spanish capital following the weekend triumph.

Arsenal boss Arteta is keen to keep him at the club.

He has found a successful formula with Ceballos and Granit Xhaka directing traffic from the heart of midfield, having been impressed by how the former knuckled down and adapted to a new role.

However, things are complex, with Arteta, Arsenal, Ceballos and Real Madrid all having different wants and needs.

So what happens now?

This week Ceballos is booked in for meetings with Real Madrid chiefs, including Florentino Perez.

Los Blancos’ president messaged Ceballos in the aftermath of the FA Cup win to congratulate him, and now they will sit down together to see what is best for the Spanish champions and Ceballos.

After the final, Ceballos told Cadena Ser : "From today, I am a Real Madrid player and I'm happy about that. Real Madrid have an important game against Manchester City and from then on, I will talk to the club and discuss my future.

"It's clear that Real Madrid have great players. They have won the most important title this season, which is La Liga.

"I need to talk to the club and will do so after [Real Madrid's game] against [Manchester] City and evaluate what is best for me.

"Next year there's the European Championship and the Olympics and I want to enjoy football, to be happy and play a minimum of 35 games, that is my aim."

Is there a place for him in Madrid?

Quite frankly, no. Zinedine Zidane wasn’t keen on keeping him around last summer, and the Frenchman is looking to move on a number of players – James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, those out on loan – who aren’t part of his plans to free up space on the wage bill and make money available to strengthen other areas.

Ceballos would fall into that category, even with Luka Modric now into his twilight years. The emergence last term of Federico Valverde works against Ceballos’ hopes of regular starting action back at the Bernabeu.

However, if Perez can persuade him that he will see regular action – enough to compete for a place in the Spain squad next summer – then he could well remain.

What are Arsenal’s chances of keeping him?

Arteta has been clear that he wants Ceballos at the Emirates next term.

And certainly, if he’s unwanted by Madrid, then Arsenal are in pole position to keep him.

“The truth is I’m very happy at Arsenal. It’s a club in which I already have a year of experience, so it would be very easy to return.

“I wouldn’t have to adapt to a new league or new club with a different manager and players.

“I think it would be a good step for me.”

What does a move to the Emirates look like?

Certainly, if he is to go then Real Madrid would like a permanent transfer, around the £25million mark.

They have lost a lot of money amid the coronavirus pandemic, while also spending to enhance the Bernabeu.

Given the ongoing crisis, and its continued fallout, Arsenal would prefer extending his loan for another 12 months. Doing that, before potentially handing over £25million at a later date if Ceballos continues to impress, works for them given their own financial issues, other concerns and other desires – namely Atletico Madrid’s Thomas Partey.

But does potentially waiting for 12 months for funds work for Madrid?

Can Arsenal raise the funds?

Being in the Europa League helps – although it isn't the Champions League – and if necessary, parting with either Matteo Guendouzi or Lucas Torreira would do the trick.

The Frenchman has fallen down the pecking order drastically since the incident at Brighton, and wasn’t anywhere near the squad for the FA Cup Final – as he hasn’t been since the Amex. Arteta wants rid and if Arsenal can get £30million for him then they will.

Similarly, Torreira has struggled under Arteta since the June restart. It will be hoped that that is down to the injury suffered back in March, and that with a pre-season under his belt, he can kick on.

However, the Uruguayan has admirers elsewhere, notably in Serie A, and if cashing in gets Arteta someone he prefers more, then don’t expect him not to do so.

Others are available too, notably Sokratis and Mesut Ozil, but getting value for money may prove difficult in some cases.

Interest from elsewhere?

Ceballos’ former club Real Betis are keen to take him back to Seville, with Manuel Pellegrini having taken charge of his boyhood side.

Valencia too are long time admirers, and there is a big overhaul expected there in the current window; whether he would contemplate a move to the Mestalla, where there are seemingly never-ending complex issues, is another matter.

What does Ceballos want?

Right now Ceballos No.1 aim is to prove himself in Madrid. His move to a deep-lying midfield position by Arteta may just help change Zidane’s mind.

But when the Frenchman’s mind is made up, he doesn’t often change it – witness Bale – and there are no guarantees that, if Ceballos remains, he will get anything like the minutes he desires.

If that opportunity isn’t available, then, as Cebllos says, Arsenal are next on the list. It’s just whether a deal can be done that works for all.

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