Mateo Kovačić is a man of supreme talent, but after three years on the Real Madrid subs bench, his first season in London wasn’t exactly an overwhelming success. Chelsea deciding to turn his loan into a £40m transfer was met with a fair amount of trepidation, even though it was the smartest (and basically only) bit of incoming business we were able to do thanks to the transfer ban.
Fortunately, those concerns are slowly diminishing. The new season has meant a new man in charge, and many of the tactical restrictions that held Kovačić back last season are now gone. It’s only been a few games, but he’s been able to show off his importance to the team, mainly in attacking transition, driving the team forward in midfield with the technical dribbling ability of a natural-born winger — which sometimes even reminds us of the previous owner of the No.17 shirt.
Armed with a five-year contract, the 25-year-old now feels truly at home, and is playing like it.
“The manager has given me more freedom to get up and support the attacks, I can collect the ball and drive forward. I feel good, I have a great connection with the manager and his coaching team and of course with my team-mates.”
“I feel better to be a Chelsea player, compared to last season when I was only on loan. I feel more confident, I’m more relaxed because I know this is my home now and I feel really good. I think I can still show more in my play because I know I can still improve for the team, but overall I’m very happy.”
As well-rounded as he may be, there are still holes in Kovačić’s game. The most obvious and glaring is his extremely poor goalscoring record, which has practically reached Mikel-esque heights. Perhaps Lampard can teach him a few tricks in that regard.
But as long as Mateo continues to contribute in other ways, and the team continue winning, we won’t care too much if he doesn’t.
“The whole team is working hard together, we have a great connection and I think we can only improve and get better as time goes on.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: Chelsea FC
At just 25, Kovačić is still on the younger side of the squad, with his best years presumably still ahead of him. Combined with all the young talent coming through, the future’s looking bright in the SW6!