2017 22under22 Countdown – #19: Dani Ceballos

“Betis plays well and Ceballos is the protagonist. He runs the show”
– Quique Sanchez Flores


Date of Birth: August 7, 1996 (20 years old)
Nationality: Spanish
Position: Central Midfielder
Club Appearances: 98 (5 goals)
International Appearances: 11 (2 goals), Spain U-21’s
EiF Ability Score: 62

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


We continue our 2017 22under22 Countdown with #19, Dani Ceballos. The 20-year-old central midfielder has become Real Betis’ key player this season, and he is also the heartbeat of the Spanish U-21 side’s midfield, providing Spanish fans with plenty of hope for the future. Ceballos joined Sevilla FC’s youth team in 2004 at the age of 8, but was released 5 years later due to chronic bronchitis. He joined his hometown club CD Utrera, and left for Real Betis in 2011 before signing a professional contract three years later. His first official appearance for Betis was against Real Sociedad at home, losing 1-0 in 2013/14. After Real Betis dropped down to the Segunda, Ceballos contributed to 5 goals and assists in 30 matches. Last year, Ceballos agreed a contract extension with Betis until 2020. This season, he has picked up two Man of the Match awards and has an average match rating of 7.10. Real Betis are currently 14th in La Liga, and with his help they will look to achieve another mid table finish.


Strengths


Dani Ceballos is a typical Spanish interior midfielder, full of invention and quality with the ball at his feet. He knows how to defend, when to press or drop back into the team’s shape, and where to pass the ball. He combines steely determination and endeavour with a high level of technical skill, making him a difficult player to defend. Dani’s style of play consists of playing vertical passes to break the lines of the opposition midfield and playing the ball horizontally to allow his teammates to progress further up the pitch. He is blessed with incredible close control to retain possession in tight spaces, his quick feet and controlled dribbling making it very hard for defenders to take the ball off him. He boasts a great turning radius which allows him to receive on the half turn, turning defense into attack in an instant. Another interesting dimension to his game is that he likes to play long balls to switch the play, creating overloads in Real Betis’s favour. Ceballos put in a Man of The Match performance vs. Barcelona in Seville in late January in a 1-1 draw. He made 10 ball recoveries, 4 key passes, 4 tackles, and 2 interceptions, completed 100% of his take-ons, and had 2 out of 3 shots on target, in addition to 1 that hit the post.

CeballosCeballos in action against Atletico Madrid, one of the many teams rumored to be interested in him
(Photo: AS)

In his first season in La Liga, Ceballos made 22 starts and came off the bench 12 times. He recorded 2 assists, and on average he created 0.7 chances, completed 36.4 passes with 80.9% pass accuracy, completed 1.5 dribbles, and made 2.1 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game. This season he has made 12 starts, and 5 appearances from the bench. He’s already matched his assist tally from last season, and he averages 1.1 chances, 38.7 passes with 79.6% pass accuracy, 1.7 dribbles, 3.2 tackles, and 1.7 interceptions per game. It’s clear to see he’s made massive strides this year and has become a key player for Los Verdiblancos. He can play as the deepest lying central midfielder as well as both left wing and wing back, demonstrating his versatility. He usually plays in on the left side of central midfield in a 5-3-2 system under Víctor Sánchez del Amo. I firmly believe that this is his best position long term, as it amplifies his strengths.


Weaknesses


CeballosCeballos has performed well for the Spanish U-21 side, scoring 2 goals in 11 appearances so far
(Photo: Marcador)

One of Ceballos’ most obvious shortcomings is that he is only 176cm tall (5ft 7in roughly), so he struggles in aerial duels against taller opponents. I have also noticed that he does like to waste time pretending to be injured which can annoy the opposing team and cause more time to be added on towards the end of the game, a habit that could harm Betis as he could cause his teammates extra stress at the end of tight matches when they are trying to hold on for a result. Another thing I think he can improve on is adding more goals and assists to his name. He can do this by learning how to create space for himself between the lines as well as making a run through the lines to play off offensive players such as Rubén Castro.


Although still young, Dani Ceballos is very much holding his own in La Liga. He has become a major member of the Real Betis team, and his performances have turned the heads of teams from all over Europe. As early as 2015, clubs such as Real Madrid, Arsenal, and Liverpool were all reportedly interested in signing him. Given his age, it might be advantageous for him to stay at Betis and develop for a couple of more years, but if he continues to develop and perform he will have the option to move to a bigger club soon enough. He isn’t a household name across Europe, but in a few years time he will be.


Written by Hass (@TrequartistaFC_)