Dani Ceballos admits he would have left Real Madrid had Zinedine Zidane stayed on as head coach.
Signed from Real Betis last July for a reported €18million, the 22-year-old barely made an impact in his first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, starting only four LaLiga matches.
The Spain Under-21 star appears to have better prospects under Julen Lopetegui, though, having played in three of Madrid’s four competitive matches in 2018-19, and he was called up to the senior national team for the first time last week.
The midfielder says he gave up on last season when Zidane gave him only a minute of action in the Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund last September, just three days after he scored both goals in the 2-1 league win at Deportivo Alaves, and would no longer be at the club if Lopetegui had not taken charge.
“It’s something for him to explain, why I didn’t get opportunities,” he told Radio Marca when asked about Zidane. “I worked, I tried to make [his decisions] difficult for him, but a moment comes when you see it’s impossible.
“I scored two goals in Vitoria and the next game I played one minute against Dortmund. When you spend weeks not feeling important, it’s more difficult.
“There was a moment in which I gave the season up. We were 15 points [off the top] in LaLiga and only had the Champions League left, but I didn’t enter into the dynamic.
“I hired a personal trainer in January, because I wasn’t playing Wednesday and Sunday and I lost that intensity. I was looking to be fit for pre-season.
“If Zidane had continued, I would obviously have looked for an exit, but everything was different with Julen’s arrival.”
— Selección Española de Fútbol (@SeFutbol) September 3, 2018
Ceballos feels he was never given a fair chance to impress by Zidane and wonders if the former Madrid and Juventus star is capable of empathising with players who are forced to spend weeks on the bench.
However, he insists he holds no grudge against the France great, as he thinks the past year has helped him to mature.
“You can never give up because my objective is to succeed at Real Madrid, as I said. Now, I try to give back to the fans what they didn’t see from me,” he said.
“It’s not a grudge. I came having had a great Euro Under-21 tournament, being the best player, to being ostracised right from the start…
“Last year was not a good year for me but, as a footballer, he’s given me maturity. He was always clear with me and I don’t hold a grudge.
“I followed him from when I was little and he was always a star wherever he played, so maybe he didn’t know how it feels for a player to be on the bench.
“It will also help in the future, so I don’t make the mistakes he made here.”
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