When figures linger in the upper 20 millions, as an Arsenal fan, you’re on edge.
How so? It boils down very simply to the fact the club are cash-strapped this summer. So when Dani Ceballos‘ valuation was touching that figure, the fear that Arsenal would be priced out of a move didn’t dissipate.
It’s not a case of whether he is worth that or not. His time in north London kicked on after the restart to the point where he was one of the first names on the team sheet. You couldn’t drop him. His stats spoke volumes. Not only that, but his heart-on-his-sleeve approach endeared him to supporters in the same way Lucas Torreira did when he first moved to the Emirates.
The little things helped. Watching him pump his chest, the turf and the air with each goal scored and each chance created was heart warming. Such levels of commitment and care are rarely, if ever, seen from a player who arrives on a mere season-long loan. It was a real coup from Arsenal to sign him, but one that in its infancy only appeared to be a chance for the Spaniard to prove Zinedine Zidane he was worthy of a starting berth in Madrid.
As Ceballos got better, so did Arsenal.
Even at the midway point of the campaign, rumours that Arsenal might have to stump up a fee in the region of £30m to make him a permanent fixture raised eyebrows. In due course, he will surely be worth that, but it didn’t come across as wise expenditure at the time.
An FA Cup final later and the supporters made their feelings known. As did Mikel Arteta. But even then, it would have amounted to a hefty outlay with other targets in mind.
Loaning him for another season with an obligation to buy was mooted, a deal that would have been wise only under the pretext that Champions League football was secured at the end of next season.
A few phone calls and some encouraging social media posts later, it appears Arteta has wrangled himself a deal that couldn’t have worked out any smoother. All signs point towards Ceballos ‘coming home’ (fully aware he’s actually from just outside of Seville) on another season-long loan switch, without any obligation to buy, with Real Madrid waiving any loan fee.
How utterly wonderful is that? It’s the perfect outcome. It’s worth pinching yourself just to be sure.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had his contract terminated a year early to allow him to move to Roma permanently, and his yearly wages would have cost the club more than the overall salary Arsenal will be forking out for the 24-year-old. There are no obvious flaws. None.
It gets even better, too. Maneuvering through a market that has been turned on its head by the coronavirus pandemic, but coming out of it by securing a talented midfielder with experience of the city and the league already – for even less than what the club would have paid for one half of the worst swap deal in history – is nigh-on perfect.
Arteta’s pull as a manager and the welcoming atmosphere that Ceballos came into clearly impacted his decision, but Arsenal owe a great debt of gratitude to Los Blancos.
Thank you Madrid for already having Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde and Isco in your team. Thank you Zidane for being so infatuated with Modric that Ceballos has slipped your gaze. Thank you Madrid for sending him over without any additional fee. Thank you for having faith in Arteta and Arsenal to the point where you feel he can truly develop here.
We’ll treat him well. Estrella and paella will be waiting for him when he returns.