Arsenal currently have two Real Madrid loanees on their books in Dani Ceballos and Martin Odegaard, both of whom started the first leg of the Europa League knockout tie with Benfica.
Ceballos, who spent last season on loan in north London and was re-signed by Mikel Arteta in the summer, was arguably Arsenal’s standout performer in Rome, having also put in an impressive performance in the recent win over Leeds.
Odegaard, meanwhile, is a recent addition at the Emirates Stadium, brought in to provide some added creative spark from midfield. He’s only had a few opportunities to shine thus far, but he’s already beginning to purr in red and white and put in a decent shift against the Portuguese giants.
But given Arsenals financial struggles, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to persuade Real Madrid into parting ways with both on a permanent basis. So it begs the question, if push came to shove and the Gunners had to pick one player they were going to prioritise the signing of, which way would they go?
Real Madrid are rumoured to want £22m for Dani Ceballos and it seems they would be unwilling to sanction another loan deal for the 24-year-old.
Odegaard’s move to Arsenal is a straight-forward six-month loan deal, and as we understand it, the Gunners have no option nor any obligation to purchase the player at the end of the season.
It’s not clear if Real Madrid would even entertain an offer for the Norwegian but if all goes well and a deal makes sense for all parties you could see representatives from both clubs come willingly to the negotiation table.
As it stands, Ceballos is more gettable and is 100% available.
Odegaard was signed to impact the game in a more advanced position and support the developing Emile Smith Rowe in creating chances for the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Bukayo Saka.
Although he is yet to score a goal or provide an assist, it’s clear that the 22-year-old’s dynamism, ability to play comfortably anywhere across the front-line and technical brilliance make him a creative force in the final third.
It can sometimes be hard to compare the pair directly given they play in different positions but based on Arsenal’s season so far, it is fair to say they’ve struggled to progress the ball from deeper areas at times.
Ceballos‘ excellent passing range and willingness to carry the ball into the opposition’s half means when on song, he can be just as important and creative – only from a deeper starting position.
When Ceballos first arrived at the Emirates Stadium, many wondered if he’d be fit enough or combative enough to cope with the English top-flight.
Any sub-standard performances the Spaniard may have turned in have never been down to a lack of work-rate or effort. Whenever selected, the former Real Betis star covers plenty of ground, gets stuck in and aggressively presses his opponents.
Upon Odegaard’s arrival, it’s probably fair to have assumed he was a bit of a luxury footballer. However, his fitness and willingness to chase back and press the opposition, similarly to his teammate, has come as a pleasant surprise.
The speed with which Odegaard has got himself fit enough to start games is certainly impressive when you consider how little football he had played this season prior to his arrival in London.
At just 16-years-old, Odegaard was one of European football’s most desirable young players. He visited the club’s London Colney training facility at the time and has since revealed he was impressed by the setup at Arsenal.
A series of loan moves away from Real Madrid, including spells at Heerenveen, Vitesse Arnhem and Real Sociedad have showcased his potential and you feel as though a permanent move to the right club would see him fulfil it.
As for Ceballos, he’s a couple of years older than the Norwegian and has played far more football at a higher level. As such, he is further along in his journey to reaching his peak but having fallen out of favour at Real Madrid and now Arsenal since the arrival of Thomas Partey, you do wonder how much more there is to come from the midfielder.
With that in mind, Odegaard has the far higher ceiling.
From the very start of his Gunners career, Ceballos has struggled for consistency. At his best, he’s been effective, impactful and a key member of the side. However, to put it politely, he’s also had his fair share of stinkers in an Arsenal shirt.
During the recent games against Leeds and Benfica, you could argue he has been one of the team’s standout players but you’ve got to consider more than just the last two games.
When it comes to Odegaard, his level since his arrival has been pretty consistent although, admittedly, we’re working with a really small sample size. It is difficult to come to a solid conclusion because of that, but he was consistently brilliant for Real Sociedad during his most recent loan spell. Moreover, he influences games in a more measurable way, just.
Taking into account all of the above, Arsenal should prioritise trying to sign Odegaard on a permanent basis.
His natural ability and mature temperament is clear to see, even though he’s only played a handful of games for the club. His potential ceiling appears to be higher and given that this is Ceballos’ second season and we’re still not sure about him, that probably says it all.
Over to you Arsenal to get the deal done…