Monday’s Chelsea news consisted of barely minor updates on things that have been happening for some time — Granovskaia squeezing Real Madrid for Hazard and Sarri inching closer to Juventus (surely he’s at least to Geneva by now). But a little nugget of info was dropped in the report from Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella and Alberto Pinero: Chelsea are trying to complete the one and only signing we currently can in Mateo Kovačić, and are also insisting (obviously, wisely) that those negotiations be separate from Hazard’s.
Given the looming unknown (but seemingly grimmer by the day) status of the transfer ban, the Blues will have to work quickly to get it done before Kovačić’s loan ends at the end of the month, and he’s re-registered as a Real Madrid player again. If Chelsea end up having to face the ban, there aren’t any players returning from loan or currently in the academy who fit Kovačić’s profile and skill-set.
Kovačić came to Chelsea on loan last summer with a bit of hype. Real Madrid are always thought of having a surplus of talent, so plucking one of their hungry young midfielders seemed a quality bit of business. At the time, my pupils certainly assumed the shape of hearts when I thought of a midfield of Jorginho, Kanté, and Mateo Kovačić.
In reality the transition was a bit tougher for the then 24-year-old. He served up just two (2) assists in 2018-19 over 51 games and is still looking for his first goal in Chelsea blue — in fact, he’s looking for his first goal for club or country in over 28 months. One culprit could be (exiting manager) Maurizio Sarri’s system, which took away one of the things he’s best at, dribbling, and attempted to slot him into a playmaking position, effectively turning him into a lesser Ross Barkley far too often.
With Sarri departing, and with the on-field loss of reliable release valve Eden Hazard, another manager would probably find it useful to have a midfielder who can do things like this in the middle of the park.
i think it's important that we discuss this skill from Kovačić. to try that anywhere on the field is audacious but to do it out of necessity and beat two players is SAWCY. pic.twitter.com/XlTLw8fwnZ— amadí (@amadoit__) March 15, 2019
Though it was his 51st (and our last) match of the season, Kovačić perhaps had his best showing in blue in the second half of the Europa League Final versus Arsenal. With at least one of the N’Golo Kantés not quite fully fit, Kovačić touched the ball more than any midfielder and was only out-dribbled by Eden Hazard. He worked well with Jorginho and at the end of the match had an N’Golo-esque, box-to-box heat map.
Having just turned 25 last month, Kovačić is entering his prime and would be a decent bit of business if the Blues can secure his long-term signature for a decent amount without it accompanying a discount for Hazard. The rumored fee is €35m and that, wisely, seems to be the plan. Real Madrid, who have had an all-time embarrassing season, and print money in the bowels of the Bernabéu (and/or the local government), seem ripe for a fleecing. Go get ‘em, Marina!