The mystery of Mateo Kovačić’s buy-option has been more or less allowed to fade into the background noise over the past few weeks, but regardless of whether there is an official, an unofficial, or a non-existent one, the Real Madrid loanee is enjoying his time at Chelsea and certainly wouldn’t mind staying, as he confirms in his interview with the BBC’s Football Focus.
“It is too early and I have to respect my contract with Real Madrid. But for now I’m really happy with Chelsea. The city is amazing. The fans are great. The stadium, everything is nice. I could imagine myself [staying] here.”
What Kovačić doesn’t list there is the confidence given to him by Maurizio Sarri, who has made him one of the three pillars of Chelsea’s new-look possession-dominant midfield alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté. And it’s not just the playing time itself, but the space to reach his own potential.
“After two years of struggling in Madrid, playing and not playing, it was difficult. Without the confidence you don’t try the things you know. This year was my final decision to go. Chelsea came and I spoke with the coach, with the club, so it was definitely for me just Chelsea. I wanted to come here and in the end I am happy that it happened.”
In fact, it wasn’t just a want. It was a need. We’ve seen this with many of Chelsea’s own loanees, looking to spread their wings.
“I needed it. I needed it a lot because I don’t got this type of confidence in the last few years so now I’m really enjoying it but I need to pay it back on the pitch.”
“[Modric] obviously was not happy that I would leave. We had three amazing years together winning a lot of trophies but this year I looked only at myself and this is what I needed so he was obviously happy that I got what I wanted.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: BBC via Football.London
Buy-option or no buy-option, it doesn’t sound like Kovačić himself needs any convincing to potentially continue his time at Chelsea beyond this season. Whether Real Madrid can be convinced remains to be seen.
But that’s a concern for another day. Now we need Mateo back healthy — he did not travel to Greece midweek to help his recovery from the thigh knock he suffered last weekend — and ready to slot back into the midfield as Chelsea wade through the thick part of the schedule.