Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos has admitted he would have left the European Champions if Zinedine Zidane had remained in charge for this season.
Ceballos moved to the Bernabeu from Real Betis for a reported £16 million in July 2017.
But his first season with Los Blancos did not go to plan, with Ceballos making just four La Liga starts and totalling 22 appearances across all competitions.
However, following the appointment of Julen Lopetegui, Ceballos has undergone something of a turnaround in fortunes, playing in three of Real’s four competitive matches so far this season and earning a first-ever call-up to the Spanish senior side.
In an interview with Radio Marca (via Goal), Ceballos reflected on how, at one point, he ‘gave up’ last season.
“It’s something for him to explain, why I didn’t get opportunities,” he said 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 La Liga 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.”
The 22-year-old also added he holds no grudges against Zidane, but that he is unsure whether the French World Cup-winner is able to empathise with a player sitting on the bench.
“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.”
Ceballos’ Real Madrid have made a perfect start to the La Liga season, winning all three of their games so far, and face Athletic Bilbao away on Saturday.