Spain boss Luis de la Fuente was dismayed to lose Oscar Mingueza and Dani Ceballos to injuries in the team's Tokyo 2020 opener.

The head coach of the Olympic team fears Barcelona defender Mingueza and Real Madrid midfielder Ceballos will not make swift recoveries.

He was also critical of the officiating that allowed Egypt to enforce their physical game on the match that finished 0-0 in Sapporo.

Speaking about the injured duo, who were both forced off in the first half, De la Fuente said: "They are the greatest concern. They do not look good. Let's see if I'm wrong and they can recover.

"We are very concerned because they could be serious injuries."

Mingueza was on the receiving end of a sixth-minute heavy tackle that saw Ahmed Fotouh yellow-carded, and then came off in the 22nd minute.

Ceballos was replaced shortly before half-time after being fouled by Taher Mohamed, although it was seemingly unintentional when the Egyptian player stood on the Spain star's left ankle.

Asked about Egypt's approach, after they were shown four yellow cards, De la Fuente suggested they should have had more discouragement from such forceful tackling.

He said, quoted in Marca: "The other day we had a talk in which they explained to us how the VAR works and we hope that next time we will have better luck with the sanctions that take place in the field of play because today we have not had it.

"We had a meeting that explained the actions that could be punished with a red card. Today there were several of them and they were not punished as they told us."

Mingueza had a breakthrough season at Barcelona last term, playing 39 senior games after stepping up from the club's B team.

Ceballos has returned to Real Madrid ahead of the new LaLiga campaign after spending the past two campaigns on loan at Arsenal. He failed to score in 40 games for the Gunners last season and had just three assists.

Real Madrid midfielder and former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos is relishing the prospect of combining with Spain's Olympic head coach Luis de la Fuente in Tokyo, having previously worked with him at Under-19 level.

Spain head into the Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal, given De la Fuente has been able to call upon six players that reached the semi-final stages at Euro 2020 with the senior national side.

The names of their star-studded line-up would be enough to frighten any Olympic opposition as they have included Pedri, Unai Simon, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia and Pau Torres.

While the players on the pitch paint an attractive picture that could see Spain win their second gold and first since 1992, Ceballos explained how his relationship with De la Fuente could help him thrive.

"I have had great coaches, but with Luis [de la Fuente] we have a different relationship. We have linked up very well from the first tournament (Under-19 European Championship in 2015)", the former Arsenal midfielder said in Tuesday's press conference.

"From then on we have forged a great relationship. He has given me confidence and I have been lucky to give it back to him on the field."

De la Fuente's men get their campaign underway versus Egypt on Thursday before subsequent fixtures against Argentina and Australia and Ceballos, who played 49 times across his two-year loan spell at Arsenal, is aware of the different challenges that the Games provide.

"It is a completely different competition than what we football players are used to. It is a unique opportunity", he said.

"It is really difficult to qualify for it because it has a lot of requirements that are really tough to meet. But this team has done a lot of things to deserve it, and now it is the time to enjoy it."

Barcelona youngster Pedri did not misplace a pass in normal time during the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy and created 11 chances at the tournament, one more than fellow squad member Olmo (10) and one fewer than first-placed Jordi Alba (12).

 

Both will be team-mates of Ceballos and the midfielder praised all of his colleagues as they prepare to attempt to recreate the 1992 heroics which sealed home Olympic success in Barcelona.

"We have a really great team. On paper, I think we can be among the favourites, but in reality there are a lot of fantastic national teams. On the field it is going to be different", he said

"Playing in this Olympic Games has been a special dream and I have been reading about what happened in that [the 1992] tournament. Especially in the final, that there was extra time and that Spain won against Poland with a goal from Kiko Narvaez.

"Hopefully we can repeat what they did in their day."

Like Ceballos, De la Fuente spoke with pride about leading his nation at the Games, while he also discussed the possibility of following in the footsteps of those from Barcelona 1992.

"It is a pride being here. It is a different feeling from other tournaments because the Olympic Games are unique. It is a totally special experience, and we are wishing to start enjoying it as a competition and living the Olympic environment.", the head coach said.

"We are feeling the same they felt, a great desire to start competing, a great conviction that we have a great team to compete for everything. And feeling capable of fighting for the maximum. I am sure we are feeling what they felt.

"We are going to try to be up to the standards expected of us, and I am sure that we are going to perform to that level and fulfil the expectations we are creating."

Pedri and Unai Simon were among a group of six Spain stars at Euro 2020 who received an Olympic Games call-up on Tuesday.

Spain Under-21 head coach Luis de la Fuente, who will take charge of the Olympic team in Tokyo, announced a 22-man list that must be trimmed to 18 for the tournament.

Teenage Barcelona midfielder Pedri has been one of the standout figures in Luis Enrique's Spain team at the European Championship, while Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Simon got away with a huge mistake in the last-16 game against Croatia, when he conceded an own goal before Spain roared back to earn a 5-3 win.

He carelessly failed to deal with Pedri's back pass and the ball rolled into the net.

They were joined on De la Fuente's squad list by senior Spain colleagues Eric Garcia, Pau Torres, Dani Olmo and Mikel Oyarzabal.

As expected, there was no place for veteran Sergio Ramos, who wanted to represent Spain at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics this year but was called up for neither tournament.

Ramos, who is leaving Real Madrid after 16 years, endured an injury-plagued 2020-21 season.

 

Spain, who were gold medallists in men's football at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, also included Real Madrid duo Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio, Valencia's Carlos Soler, Sevilla's Bryan Gil and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad in a strong line-up.

Monday's victory over Croatia at Euro 2020 has carried Spain through to a quarter-final against Switzerland, to be played in St Petersburg on Friday.

Should Spain go all the way to the final, they will contest the showpiece at Wembley on July 11. 

The Olympic football competition begins before the Games is officially declared open, with Spain due to play Egypt at the Sapporo Dome in their opening Group C game on July 22, a day ahead of the opening ceremony.

De la Fuente said he had no doubts about selecting Simon, despite his error at the Euros.

"I know Unai Simon. I know of his strength and integrity," De la Fuente said. "Yesterday he had an exceptional reaction after a difficult moment."


Provisional Spain squad for Tokyo Olympics: Alvaro Fernandez (Huesca), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)), Alex Domínguez (Las Palmas); Mingueza (Barcelona), Jesus Vallejo (Granada), Eric García (Barcelona), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Oscar Gil (Espanyol), Juan Miranda (Real Betis); Marc Cucurella (Getafe), Jon Moncayola (Osasuna), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Dani Ceballos (Real Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Carlos Soler (Valencia), Pedri (Barcelona); Bryan Gil (Sevilla), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad, Rafa Mir (Wolves), Javi Puado (Espanyol).

Dani Ceballos is planning to hold talks with Real Madrid over his future, but a transfer to Barcelona would never be an option for the midfielder.

Ceballos impressed in his first season on loan at Arsenal but was unable to make such an impact in the 2020-21 campaign.

In 40 appearances across all competitions, he provided three assists – from a total of 41 opportunities created – yet failed to score himself.

A passing accuracy of 87.61 per cent last season also ranks him below the average (88.01) of Arsenal midfielders, albeit only Granit Xhaka (3,107) attempted more passes than Ceballos (1,865).

With Carlo Ancelotti having just been appointed as Madrid's new coach, Ceballos is expecting things to be different to how they were under Zinedine Zidane.

Though while he is determined to succeed at Madrid, he has acknowledged his future may lay elsewhere.

"Ancelotti has just arrived and we need to talk," he said on Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

"I think this year I have hardened as a player. I think it is time to settle in a club with a long contract and to be able to show my game. 

"Ancelotti has just arrived and we need to talk. I want to know what he wants from me and also tell him what I want, which is important. I'm not going to the Euros and soon there will be a World Cup. It has to be a talk between the two of us with clear things.

"It is not the same to be involved in the dynamics of a club with a long contract, as it is to be on loan. It is something that these last two years I did not have and I want to settle down, play and be happy."

Moves which would never come to fruition for the 24-year-old would be a switch to the Camp Nou or Sevilla.

Asked if he would consider a move to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus or Barca, Ceballos replied: "I would not go to Barcelona because I am a Madrid player and my dream is to succeed at Madrid."

When quizzed on a transfer to Andalusia, he added: "It is a great club, but I would never play for Sevilla, especially having my [time at] Betis."

Arsenal have confirmed defender David Luiz has left the club while Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos have returned to Real Madrid.

Experienced defender David Luiz indicated he would be leaving the Gunners at the end of his contract when he posted a farewell message to fans on Instagram last month.

The 34-year-old, who joined from Chelsea for a reported £8million in August 2019, made 73 appearances in all competitions for Mikel Arteta's side.

Meanwhile, Odegaard and Ceballos are heading back to Madrid following the expiry of their loan spells at Emirates Stadium.

Odegaard, who joined in January, impressed in his 20 appearances in all competitions under Arteta.

The Norway international scored two goals and provided two assists, while his average of 2.24 chances created per 90 minutes was the best return of any Arsenal player to play more than six times last season.

Ceballos first signed for Arsenal on loan in July 2019 and the deal was extended last September after an impressive campaign that began with two assists on his first Premier League start, a feat only previously achieved for Arsenal by Ray Parlour and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The 24-year-old midfielder made 40 appearances for the Gunners last season, although only 25 of those came as a starter.

Each player has been linked with a permanent move to the club, but new Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti name-checked Odegaard and Ceballos this week as he discussed their trophy hopes in 2021-22.

"With this squad, without loan players like [Gareth] Bale, Odegaard and Ceballos, Madrid reached the Champions League semis and fought for LaLiga. So, we have the players to win trophies," Ancelotti told ABC.

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is also leaving Arsenal after a short-term loan, while youngsters Levi Laing, Joseph Olowu, Luke Plange and Jason Sraha have been released.

In a statement, Arsenal said: "All developments regarding players extending their contracts; joining-rejoining us; or leaving us will be officially communicated as soon as they are confirmed.

"We thank the above players for their contributions to the club during the periods of their permanent or loan contracts with us.

"You will always be part of the Arsenal family and we wish you all the best of health, happiness and success in your futures."

Dani Ceballos has made clear he does not want to be loaned out again by Real Madrid, despite learning plenty during his two seasons with Arsenal.

Midfielder Ceballos won the FA Cup at the end of the 2019-20 campaign under Mikel Arteta, his first on loan at the Gunners. He returned to Emirates Stadium again, agreeing to another season-long stint in England.

However, having played 77 games for Arsenal, the Spain international now wants his long-term future resolved one way or another, revealing he wants to "feel important" at a club.

He is under contract for two more years at the Santiago Bernabeu, having joined Madrid from LaLiga rivals Real Betis in July 2017.

"It is true that I have a contract with Real Madrid for the next two years and I would not like to go on loan to any club again,” Ceballos said on the El Pelotazo show on Canal Sur Radio, according to Marca.

"With the experience of the last two years, I am a player who needs to feel important, I would like next year starting from the beginning and feeling important, but settling down.

"It's important going forward to know what you want to do."

Zinedine Zidane's departure could provide a fresh start for Ceballos at Madrid, who are now looking for a new head coach to replace the Frenchman.

On the change at Madrid, Ceballos said: "It is true that with Zizou I had fewer opportunities than I had thought, but now Madrid is without a coach, we do not know what will happen in two or three weeks, there is talk of many things and I think that right now is time to disconnect a bit from football, prepare well for what is coming and when Madrid have their next coach, let's talk and see what we want, it will be time to decide the future.”

Ceballos started 25 games for Arsenal in the 2020-21 season, with his final total of minutes (2,370) a fraction above the previous term (2,343).

The 24-year-old provided three assists and also created six big chances – deemed by Opta as those situations where a player should score – though he did not get a goal himself, having managed two in 2019-20.

"The Premier is a very attractive league, I was lucky to be able to play it last year and win the FA Cup, and this second year has helped me to consolidate myself," Ceballos said of his time at Arsenal.

"I am very happy because I have learned a lot, I have become a better player, more complete, and I think that although my stage has not closed as we would have liked, with another title, I am very happy with the experience."

The Premier League's big-money clubs are circling for Declan Rice.

The England international has been a key figure in West Ham's quest for European football in 2021-22.

Will the Hammers hold on to the defensive midfielder? 

 

TOP STORY - WEST HAM'S RICE IN DEMAND

Interest in 22-year-old Declan Rice is heating up, the Telegraph reports.

Chelsea may be the strongest suitors for the West Ham player, potentially using Tammy Abraham in a swap deal to land him.

Manchester United also are said to be monitoring Rice's status as he could be set to move on from Upton Park in a £90million deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- If Cristiano Ronaldo departs Juventus, La Stampa says Barcelona's France international Antoine Griezmann is being lined up as a potential replacement.

- Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero is drawing interest from Everton and Juventus after failing to find regular playing time at Old Trafford, the Mail on Sunday reports.

Lautaro Martinez could be on the move from Italy to Spain as the Inter Milan striker's agent met with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Marca claimed.

- Loanee Dani Ceballos will leave Arsenal this summer as parent club Real Madrid invite permanent offers for the midfielder, Fabrizio Romano reports.

Newcastle are eyeing a move for USA international Cameron Carter-Vickers, who spent the season with Bournemouth on loan from Tottenham, according to SBI Soccer.

Unai Emery saw Villarreal claim a 2-1 advantage over former club Arsenal after an eventful first leg of their Europa League semi-final clash that saw both teams finish with 10 men.

Emery, who was dismissed by the Gunners in November 2019 after a poor run of form, watched on as Villarreal seized control thanks to first-half goals from Manu Trigueros and Raul Albiol.

Dani Ceballos' sending off only appeared to strengthen the hosts' hand, but Nicolas Pepe's spot-kick in the 73rd minute breathed fresh life into a contest that looked in danger of getting away from Mikel Arteta's team.

Former Tottenham midfielder Etienne Capoue then also saw red in a tie that is deliciously poised ahead of next week's return meeting.

Villarreal scored with the first effort of the game, Trigueros drilling home after Samuel Chukwueze's jinking run ended with the ball being tackled into his team-mate's path.

Shoddy Arsenal defending saw the lead doubled just prior to the half-hour mark when Gerard Moreno flicked on Dani Parejo's corner for Raul Albiol to volley home from close range.

Juan Foyth was excelling going forward but encountered problems against Pepe defensively and only a VAR check for handball in the build-up saved the defender from a penalty call going against him for a trip in the area.

Arsenal started the second half on the front foot but their outing worsened when Ceballos, already on a yellow card, was dismissed for a late challenge on Parejo.

Bernd Leno was called into action to deny the excellent Moreno and that moment proved even more pivotal when Trigueros clumsily tripped Bukayo Saka, Pepe's penalty sent down the middle and just past Geronimo Rulli.

There was even more room for optimism when Capoue hacked down Saka and was dismissed while leaving the field on a stretcher, but Villarreal clung on for a precious win despite returning captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang testing Rulli deep into added time.

Dani Ceballos knows only too well why Martin Odegaard has become frustrated at Real Madrid, insisting ambitious young players "need to play regularly" to further their development.

Odegaard impressed last season during a loan spell at LaLiga rivals Real Sociedad, yet he has struggled for minutes this term having returned to Madrid.

The Norway international has started just five games in all competitions and clocked up a mere 233 league minutes, leading to reports in Spain that he wants to leave in the January transfer window.

Ceballos himself is spending a second season on loan at Arsenal, a decision taken to make sure he had a greater opportunity for first-team action.

"I don't know exactly what happens with Martin, but it is obvious that any player who wants to succeed at Madrid is going to grab the opportunity he has," Ceballos said in an interview with Efe.

"I don't know what Martin thinks, but I know I think that when you're young and you have goals and objectives, what you need is to play regularly.

"If you don't, it's like something is missing. I guess that's what's happening to Martin."

Odegaard has failed to score or assist in his nine appearances for Madrid this season, having contributed seven goals and nine assists in 2019-20 while away on loan.

The 22-year-old has been linked with a return to Sociedad, potentially in a loan deal that includes an option to buy.

Ceballos, meanwhile, has not given up hope of forcing his way in at Madrid, though will need assurances over his future role if he is to remain in the Spanish capital next season.

"They don't have to tell me anything," the midfielder - who has won 11 caps for Spain - said of his own future. 

"It would be to have a talk with the coach and the coaching staff that is in at that moment and know that I will have equal opportunities with him.

"From there, you have to earn it on the field."

Ceballos has played in 24 games for Arsenal this term under Mikel Arteta, his most recent start coming in the 0-0 home draw with Crystal Palace on January 14.

Dani Ceballos says his priority is to become a regular for Real Madrid once his second season on loan at Arsenal has come to an end.

The midfielder impressed for the Gunners in 2019-20 before extending his loan stay for an additional season.

He has not played as regularly in this campaign, prompting speculation Madrid would recall the 24-year-old and loan him out elsewhere to get more minutes.

But Ceballos did return to the Arsenal starting XI with an impressive performance in the 4-0 away win over West Brom last time out, the club's third consecutive triumph.

While Ceballos is loving playing under Gunners boss Mikel Arteta, he still sees his future with Madrid rather than in London.

"A third year on loan? No, my goal is to return to Real Madrid and be important at the best club in the world," he told El Larguero.

"I believe that one day I will come back and be able to return the affection that the fans showed me.

"I signed a long contract with Madrid. I have two-and-a-half years left. 

"For various reasons, I didn't leave the club in the best manner. My goal is to succeed at Arsenal [but] my wish is to wear the Madrid shirt.

"For those of us from Madrid, the arrival of Zinedine Zidane has been good for everyone. 

"Each coach has their taste in players. He told me that he needed me to play and get minutes. He was clear with me."

Discussing life under Arteta with Arsenal, Ceballos, who has started nine of the Gunners' 17 Premier League matches, continued: "Mikel is a coach who suits me like a glove.

"That is because he played in the same position as me. He wants us to play forward when we steal the ball. 

"The Premier League is a bit below [LaLiga] at a tactical level but it is more physical. The position of number eight is the one that suits me best.

"We started to get into bad dynamics and when a team has a priority to fight for Europe it is difficult to get out. We have chained three victories together and hopefully we will go up [the table]."

Ceballos also said he would love to be reunited with the Real Betis fans by playing there again later in his career.

"Betis is different from any club in the world," he added.

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