Leaving Real Madrid for good was never in Dani Ceballos' mind, even after he secured a season-long loan move to Arsenal in the summer.
Ceballos spoke to Radio Marca (h/t Metro) and appeared to backtrack on previous comments he made about his plans at Real: "My words were misunderstood. When I do not play, I don't enjoy myself."
The playmaker went on to explain how he knew he needed regular minutes this season ahead of Spain competing at next summer's UEFA Euro 2020. Ceballos helped his nation win this summer's Euro U21 and wants to be part of Robert Moreno's senior squad.
When pressed about his club future beyond this season, Ceballos said: "I never thought of leaving permanently. My goal is to succeed at Real Madrid. I’m going to fight to fulfil my dream."
Before then, Ceballos has to see out the remainder of his loan deal with the Gunners. The former Real Betis star had talked up life in North London, per another report from Metro: "I have eight months left at Arsenal, I can only thank them for the confidence that the coach and fans have placed in me, who have already made me a song. I am very happy there and I hope to continue for a long time."
While he's clarified the true meaning of those words, Ceballos can continue being a definite asset for Arsenal. Specifically, he has added vision, technique and flair to a workmanlike squad otherwise lacking those qualities in the advanced areas of midfield.
Arsenal head coach Unai Emery has been reluctant to play elegant, mercurial No. 10 Mesut Ozil. Instead, he's trusted Ceballos to provide creativity, with the player chipping in with a pair of assists in the Premier League and scoring his first Arsenal goal during the 4-0 win over Standard Liege in the UEFA Europa League:
The Gunners may want to keep those qualities on a permanent basis, especially since Ozil is expected to move on:
While Ceballos is proving his worth to Emery, he's also showcasing what he could bring to Los Blancos next season. Real also need a refresh in the creative department of midfield, where 34-year-old Luka Modric is still responsible for pulling the strings, while Toni Kroos offers a scoring threat.
Ceballos is still just 23, and he has the kind of forward-thinking game Real need at the tip of midfield. His shooting power can produce spectacular goals from outside the box, while the gifted No. 8 can knit possession together with the kind of intelligent and neat distribution that has defined Modric.
Making the grade at Real may mean convincing Zinedine Zidane of his worth. If Ceballos can do it, he has the chance to be central to an overhaul in the middle for the Spanish giants.
However, Real's gain would be Arsenal's loss and leave the Gunners casting a wider net in their search for creative reinforcements to replace Ozil's waning influence.