The intensity of the modern game requires world-class teams to have a strong set of backup players to give the starters some rest. Real Madrid are in a fortunate position in which their backup players are of such high quality, and it’s difficult to say who is a backup player and who should be a starter.
In the Club World Cup, Carlo Ancelotti trusted Toni Kroos, Aurélien Tchouaméni, and Luka Modric to form his midfield trio. The three together led the team to the title by beating Egyptian side Al Ahly and the Saudi side Al Hilal in the final.
However, there’s another player who’s making a strong statement for being in the starting lineup. Dani Ceballos began to feature in Madrid’s team during the Spanish Super Cup, and put in such good performances that he was tasked with being in the team’s starting eleven in some following games, including the ones against Real Sociedad and Valencia. During the Valencia game, he was given an ovation by the crowd at the Santiago Bernabéu along with chants of “Ceballos, please stay”.
While given more of a marginal role in the Club World Cup, Ceballos still managed to cause an impact in the few minutes he was given. A beautiful back-heel to Rodrygo Goes provided him the opportunity to make it 3-1 against Al Ahly, and then Ceballos raked up another assist in the final where he supported Vinícius Júnior’s closing goal. Additionally, against Al Hilal, Ceballos recorded 57 completed passes out of 58 attempted, without missing any of the 16 distributed in the final third.
As reported by Marca, Ceballos’ explosion in form has seen an increase in playing time. Before the 2022 World Cup, he was in the bottom three in the whole squad for game time, with only 209 minutes. Now with 883 minutes after the break, Ceballos is on par with Marco Asensio and Andriy Lunin for playing time.
Ancelotti is now in a difficult position. Kroos and Modric both still have plenty of gas left in the tank. Tchouaméni has the potential to explode into a world-class midfielder. And now Ceballos is showing he can change the team when he’s on the pitch. It’s a good problem for Carlo to have.
Nicolás Antúnez de Mayolo | GSFN