Although Dani Ceballos is only on loan to Arsenal from Real Madrid, he has always been a follower of the Gunners, and for very good reason. He was born in a little town in the Sevilla region of Southern Spain called Utrera, and the greatest local footballer from that town was one Jose Antonio Reyes and he was the hero of Ceballos and every other young footballer in the area and was devastated by his untimely demise.
Dani explained how the village felt at the time: “Jose’s death was a huge tragedy, not just for me but for the world of football,” Ceballos told Arsenal Player. “He was a really important player for Spain and it’s a shame that he left us at such a young age.
“The family is trying to come to terms with the tragic death of their son. I spoke to his father and he congratulated me on signing for Arsenal. He told me that it was a massive club where his son came a long way. I feel a lot of affinity with him because I’m from Utrera too and now I’ve joined Arsenal, just like he did before me.
“I remember after he died, the people in Utrera… the streets were empty, the pain was immense. It was a tragic time. As far as I know it’s the worst thing that has ever happened in Utrera. He was loved by the whole village and it was shocking news both for me and for the village of Utrera as a whole.
“Jose always had time for people, especially kids. He was always out and about around the village and he always held himself very well.
“He was a very well-known person around Utrera and he loved being in his village, with his people… that meant that the people treated him like a regular guy. He was always a humble, simple person and you saw that throughout his career.”
He then gave a moving tribute to his hero, in other article on Arsenal.com: “Jose started playing professionally at a very young age – if I remember rightly he was only 16,”
“From there, his career came on in leaps and bounds to the point where he was able to sign for Arsenal.
“He went on to play in European Championships, World Cups… as a player he was an icon, not just for me but for Spanish football as a whole, because he played for the biggest clubs in Spain and won titles everywhere he went.
“I remember one match when he was playing for Sevilla against Real Madrid. He was up against Roberto Carlos and he looked like he’d be playing at the top level for 10 years, but he’d only just made the step up from the youth academy. He was definitely one of my idols.
“I joined Arsenal not long after Jose died. He was on my mind a lot around that time because I’m sure he would have got in touch to give me recommendations on good stuff to do here in London.
“I’m sure he’s up there, proud that I’m following in his footsteps. And I’m proud to be following in his footsteps too.”
That is a very long and moving tribute to his local hero and you can feel his pain from his words. So no wonder he would have been proud to follow in the great man’s footsteps. They both started playing for the Sevilla youth side and now he has played for Real Madrid and now Arsenal, as Reyes did as well. I have a feeling he is going to be the new local hero down in Utrera….