Maurizio Sarri isn’t one for transfer markets or transfer speculation. He’s one for coaching and teaching. The only thing he cares about is “his football”. It must be assumed that, therefore, there are only two types of players as far as he’s concerned, those who know Sarri-ball and those who don’t.
It’s no wonder the only two players he’s pushed for and gotten from Chelsea have been Jorginho and Gonzalo Higuaín, two former key players of his at Napoli, and it’s no wonder that he wants Chelsea to extend not only Higuaín, but No.1 Sarri-ball-fan, David Luiz as well. And so it also fits that he wants Chelsea to keep Mateo Kovačić. Having lost Cesc Fàbregas in January, Kovačić has become the preferred backup to Jorginho, and has done well enough to earn Sarri’s stamp of approval.
“In the last match, Jorginho touched 161 balls. So, for us, it’s very important for us to have big quality in that position. Big quality not for the last pass, but big quality in terms of moving the ball. No [I don’t want to buy another midfielder], I want to try with Kovačić.”
Even if Chelsea would be willing to fork over the previously rumored €50m it would take to keep the 24-year-old who’s currently on loan from Real Madrid (who’d rather sell him, reportedly, than take him back, and vice versa), that’s an impossibility as things stand. Chelsea’s transfer ban prevents any new player registrations, and turning a loan into a permanent transfer would count as a new registration (see also: Higuaín).
Chelsea’s hearing at the FIFA Appeals Committee is set for Thursday, April 11. While it’s not expected that they will lift or delay the ban, the hope is that they’ll render a decision in time for Chelsea to launch an appeal with CAS instead, and get the ban suspended for the summer.
If we are able to get that done in time, Sarri just might get his wish — assuming he gets to keep his job in the first place, of course.
“Yes, Kovačić is only on loan, of course. I’d like very much that Kovačić will stay with us. You know very well that, in that position, we have some problems because we have only Jorginho. In my opinion, Kovačić could become a very good central midfielder. Of course, he is not a defensive midfielder but, as you know, in that position I prefer a very technical player.”
-Maurizio Sarri; source: Goal
While Kovačić has not exactly set the Premier League alight during his season on loan here — he’s probably better suited for a deeper-lying position than the (Hamšík-esque) attacking midfielder of Sarri’s midfield trio — he’s the sort of midfielder who could easily find a role at any top level team. But unlike Jorginho, it would not be hard to see him in a midfield two or an inverted trio either, or just about any configuration one can think of. That sort of versatile quality isn’t easy to find, and he would be a useful signing with or without Sarri at the helm. Filling the team with quality players and then finding a coach who can maximize those talents is an excellent way to go about winning things.
In any case, unless Chelsea can find a loophole around the ban, we won’t have to worry about any sort of Kovačić decision.