Mateo Kovačić, heir apparent to Luka Modrić (if at least in spirit and not necessarily in style) joined Chelsea on loan earlier this week, presumably as part of Real Madrid’s compensation package for Thibaut Courtois.
The loan is a mutually beneficial arrangement for all involved. Maurizio Sarri was asking Chelsea to add a midfielder of a “different profile” than those available to him in the squad already, and Kovačić with his dynamic and versatile box-to-box style certainly fits that bill. Kovačić himself was looking for playing time, competition for which should be a little easier at Chelsea. But Real Madrid retain high hopes for the 24-year-old, and have him under contract for three more years, so they weren’t willing to let him go permanently. So a straight-up loan for a season was arranged.
Or so we think.
Rumblings of a buy-option have persisted from day one, and while they’ve been consistently denied by Spanish sources, others in Italy and England have begged to differ. Since there is no requirement to reveal any of this to the public, it’s likely that we won’t know for a while whether there is one or isn’t one. While Kovačić is a helpful signing regardless, the move could be exponentially more useful if Chelsea could then make it permanent easily at the end of the season.
For now, the working assumption should be that there isn’t one.
But wait, what is this?
That’s Mateo Kovačić posting a farewell note to Real Madrid on his Instagram. That’s a bit weird. It’s not something players do when they go on loan. None of Chelsea’s loanees post goodbyes to Chelsea when they go on loan (except Charly Musonda, but he’s a special case and he just deletes all things Chelsea before un-deleting a few days later).
Even if we ignore phrasing, or chalk up certain phrases to translation errors (though Mateo speaks very good English), just the fact that Kovačić is basically saying goodbye to Real Madrid is noteworthy.
And then we get to the message itself.
“After three years filled with trophies I have decided to move on. Even though are [sic] paths now separate I want to say big thank you to Real Madrid family and all the fans for an amazing part of my life I will never forget.”
-Mateo Kovačić; source: Instagram
That does not sound like a man who’s planning on going back to the Spanish capital.