Billed as the missing piece to Chelsea’s midfield in the summer by Maurizio Sarri and eager to come to England in search of regular playing time, there are few holes left in Mateo Kovačić's game even at just 24 years of age.
As the heir apparent to international teammate Luka Modrić at Real Madrid, Kovačić has shown plenty of ability on and off the ball, in attack, in the press, and even in structured deep defending (which is something Chelsea rarely do these days). Like his fellow countryman, idol, and friend almost a decade his senior, Kovačić is a complete central midfielder, a true box-to-box force, dribbling like Hazard, passing like Iniesta, and tackling like ... Scholes?
“Every player has to be himself— but for me Scholes was one of the best ever. He was amazing. I still enjoy watching his videos on YouTube. Sometimes I go home and watch him to learn something new.
“He had everything, he was the modern midfielder — scoring goals, defending well, tackling. I don’t copy anybody but I do like to watch Scholes. I also watch other players to see what I can do better. Players like Luka Modric and Andres Iniesta, too.”
Paul Scholes was famous for his mistimed and dangerous tackles, so maybe give those a ... pass, Mateo. How about taking a ... shot ... at Scholes’ habit of scoring a fair few goals from his midfield position — 155 in 718 appearances for Manchester United — instead?
“That is the problem in my career, I have not scored enough — and it’s something I need to improve on.”
Kovačić has 21 goals in 283 professional appearances, and just 3 in the last 115, since joining Real Madrid in 2015. He almost opened his Chelsea account last weekend against Cardiff, though he didn’t look particularly close to scoring this weekend, against West Ham — in fairness, that goes for most of the rest of the team.
Still, injury and fitness concerns aside, Kovačić has already solidified his place in Maurizio Sarri’s preferred eleven.
“It was difficult when I was playing less — now I am involved more and it helps me a lot. I was 18 when I went to Inter and then Madrid at 21. Maybe it was a bit too fast.
“Alvaro told me Chelsea are on the same level as Madrid. The fans can expect me to always give 100 per cent. I will do my best to play good football for them.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: The Sun
And that’s all we can ask for at the end of the day, 100 per cent. Whether he’ll be here for just one season or perhaps for many more, Mateo should play a key part in this first season of Sarri-ball at Stamford Bridge.