3rd February 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Having started just one game under Real Betis' previous manager, Gus Poyet, Dani Ceballos' fortunes have improved drastically since Victor Sanchez took over the managerial reigns in November.
Thereafter, the former Deportivo La Coruna boss has quickly gone about making the sublimely talented creative midfielder a key component within his side. And the 20-year-old's repaying his manager's faith wholeheartedly, especially of late, by putting in a string of excitement laden, yet hugely effective performances.
His man of the match display vs Barcelona at the weekend was encouragingly his best yet too, as the Spanish youth international put in a sterling shift from his tailored midfield post. Ceballos' undertook his fascinating role brilliantly, for on the attacking end he was granted plentiful freedom to get involved, but on the defensive end he was instructed to press high and man mark Ivan Rakitic, but then immediately drop back into central midfield once Barca had gotten beyond Betis' first line of pressure.
Indeed, upon close examination, the responsibilities of his role were not too dissimilar to the all encompassing one Radja Nainggolan plays so successfully for AS Roma.
In a game where Barcelona enjoyed almost two thirds of possession, Ceballos and his teammates' high pressing, particularly in the first half, enabled them to regularly stifle Barca's best efforts to implement their passing game out from the back. With Ruben Castro and Alex Alegria marking Barca's wide splitting central defenders, Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu, who pulled out to the flanks to create central space for Rakitic to utilise, Ceballos' relentless pressure made life very uncomfortable for the Croatian to have an impact.
Moreover, the way he also harried the away side's keeper, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while also using his cover shadow to block the passing lane to Rakitic, was also of huge importance.
In scenarios where Rakitic was out of the picture, Ceballos didn't hesitate to push over and help cover Arda Turan and Denis Suarez, as his selfless support of his teammates was a constant theme throughout.
He wouldn't be denied in his offensive exertions either, as his line breaking passes, dynamic dribbling powers and overall resourcefulness in the final third continually unlocked the Barca backline. In addition, the way the athletic, powerful Ceballos held the ball up and used his crafty vision and awareness to spin out of trouble or find a mate under heavy duress served as another testament to his enormous talent.
With new signing Ruben Pardo and Petros providing the side with vital structural stability and balance, that afforded Ceballos a super platform to express himself, all the signs were undoubtedly extremely positive for the rest of the campaign for the Green and Whites.
Playing with such confidence and zeal on the big stage against one of the world's finest outfits was the perfect way to punctuate how well his development is coming along under Victor. All in all, his exemplary all round showing saw him produce four key passes, four successful dribbles, three shots, four tackles, two interceptions and one clearance.
Remarkably, his release clause is set at a staggeringly low €12 million for a player of his quality, something that Real Betis are working vigorously at raising, which will inevitably see many clubs circling for his signature. But it would appear his desire for now is to remain with the club he joined as a youngster back in 2011 to further progress within the familiar confines of the Benito Villamarin.
For Ceballos at present, he couldn't be happier working, improving his game and adapting to his new role under Victor. "I am very well physically, the coach has found the ideal position for me, which is as a midfielder. From there I want to continue playing, competing and growing so that we can all continue to see a great Dani Ceballos," he said.
He then went on to add how pleasantly surprised his new tactician has been at his competency on the defensive end, stating: "This week Victor told me that he was surprised by my ability to steal balls and, if I keep this up, I'll do important things this season."
Now thriving within the perfect environment for him to succeed, there's no reason to suggest Ceballos can't continue his positive resurgence with his beloved Betis.
All it took was the removal of Poyet for his season to really take off.
Dani Ceballos Beginning to Shine at Real Betis Under Victor Sanchez
3rd February 2017. By Edward Stratmann.