Mateo Kovačić arrived at Chelsea in the final days of the shortened summer transfer window, hoping to put three years of frustrations at Real Madrid behind him. New Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri had wanted another technical player for his midfield, Kovačić wanted more minutes, and a year-long loan deal was worked out in everyone’s best interest.
In terms of playing time, the loan has been wildly successful: 3000 minutes played, the most ever in his career, beating even his last season at Inter Milan. In terms of goals and convincing others of his supposedly world class potential, it’s been less successful. And in terms of results, it’s been a distinctly mixed bag.
But the season’s ending on a good note and could yet result in a trophy as well. For Kovačić, that’s enough, to be happy enough.
“This season has had many ups and downs. It was a bad season in one situation, now it’s a good season. We achieved the Champions League qualification, it was the main target for us, and now we are in another final this year. It could obviously be better but I think we have to be happy and enjoy these days.
“I thought we could fight for the Premier League in the beginning but the Premier League is so difficult, if you lose one or two games you are out of the race. We had some games where we lost some stupid points, but it’s normal because we had a new coach, some new players came in, it’s our first season together. I think in the end we did a good job.”
“The Premier League is really incredible because the other teams, they lost quite a lot of points, we won, so in two games you change the season. At one point in the beginning we played really well, we were there and I thought for sure we would be in the Champions League. Then we were fifth or sixth and it was a season with a lot of ups and downs, but in the end I think we adapted very well.”
The big question now of course is what happens with Mateo. He was once regarded as one of the most highly promising players in football, and while he hasn’t quite lived up to that billing, he’s a player of rare skill and an improving all-around game, sure to be useful at just about any top team. Real Madrid reportedly don’t want him back, and he certainly doesn’t want to go back. His loan contract does not include a buy-option however, so if he is to continue here, Chelsea will have to put some effort into negotiations (with or without tying into any potential Eden Hazard deal).
Chelsea’s transfer ban of course complicates the situation, as it does all of our potential transfer situations, but assuming we can get it suspended via the CAS appeal, Kovačić will likely feature heavily in this summer’s transfer talk. He certainly seems happy to be playing in the Premier League.
“It is incredible for me. In other leagues if you are winning 2-0 or 3-0 it is mostly over, but in the Premier League in five minutes everything changes. It’s very tough and physically very strong, so for me it’s the most difficult league in the world and I’m really happy that I can play here. For me it’s the most difficult and the best as well, because every game is difficult, the stadiums are amazing, the atmosphere is great. I’m sure that many players would say that this is the best league in the world.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: Chelsea FC
Kovačić speaks with the words of a man who just might be gearing up for a second season at Chelsea. We shall find out soon enough whether that becomes true or not.