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Chelsea will not extend Higuaín’s loan, will look to sign Kovačić — report

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Good.

Photo by Chelsea Football Club/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea may be infamous for sending veritable armies of players on loan — thus the “Loan Army” designation we like to use — but it’s mostly a one-way operation. Like most top teams around Europe, Chelsea do not tend to bring in players temporarily from other teams.

But this season we’ve had two such players, Mateo Kovačić from Real Madrid for the full campaign and Gonzalo Higuaín from Juventus for the second-half of the season. It’s only the fourth time under Abramovich’s ownership that the Blues have resorted to such measures, after Maniche (2005-06), Ricardo Quaresma (2008-09), and the dead(ly) duo of Pato and Falcao (2015-16).

Not exactly the most stellar collection of footballing excellence.

And neither Higuaín nor Kovačić have changed that narrative for good. Higuaín has been distinctly poor since his arrival, collecting just 5 goals in 18 appearances, 3 of which came against the bottom two sides in the Premier League. Even in last night’s charity friendly against New England Revolution, it was Ross Barkley who took credit for Chelsea’s third goal after inadvertently deflecting Higuaín’s shot into the back of the net.

While head coach Maurizio Sarri maintains strong belief, at least in public, in the striker who once scored a Serie A record number of goals for him at Napoli, it seems quite clear that Higuaín’s sell-by date is long past. Fortunately, Chelsea appear to agree, as the Mail’s Matt Barlow reported yesterday, and will not be picking it up either the €18m option for a loan extension of the €36m option for a permanent transfer. Sorry, Juventus, you’ll have to find a different patsy.

The situation around Mateo Kovačić is a bit more complicated. While he also has not universally impressed, he is much younger, much more capable, much more versatile, and far more useful than Higuaín — and still has room to improve. Like Juventus, Real Madrid don’t really want him back, and the 25-year-old does not want to go back, having expressed great pleasure in playing for Chelsea in the Premier League. Sarri also likes him well enough, and apparently so do the club, as Barlow reports that Chelsea “will try to make his move permanent” (assuming our transfer ban is delayed, naturally).

Whether that intention ends up playing a part in the Eden Hazard negotiations remains to be seen, but perhaps we can strike a discount, which would make the deal immediately better-looking. I like Mateo just fine and he can slot in just about anywhere in midfield with his array of technical skills and physical tenacity. Sarri’s system isn’t necessarily the best fit for him (especially with Jorginho having the deep-lying role on lock-down), but if he signs on, chances are he’d get to play under a few more and probably quite different managers in the future.