Ever since he signed for Real Madrid back in 2015, Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic never really was in contention to become a starter for the club.
From Carlo Ancelotti to Zinedine Zidane, everyone used him as a backup option to the ever majestic duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. He started very few matches, ones that the managers used to give the starters some rest. And in most cases, he’d just come off the bench to make up the minutes. This was the same case with in Croatia. But at 24 years of age, with three Champions Leagues and a World Cup Runners-up medal, Kovacic wanted to become a starter at club level at least where he can play week in week out. And Chelsea provided the exact opportunity he wanted.
With Courtois going to Real Madrid for a ridiculously low fee, Kovacic has joined Sarri’s men in a one year loan deal. Despite the Real hierarchy being over the moon signing Courtois, one really has to wonder whether it was indeed Chelsea, and not Real Madrid, who got the better rub of the green. If you ask me, I’d say Chelsea. Because Real signed a goalkeeper whereas Keylor Navas and even young Andriy Lunin have performed well in pre-season. One could call this signing a redundant one. But same can’t be said about Chelsea. With the double pivot of Jorginho-Kante in a three men midfield, ‘The Blues’ needed an attacking midfielder who could link up with the front three and cause some damage. An aging Cesc Fabregas or an irregular Ross Barkley doesn’t seem like a long term solution. A 24-year old, at the top of his game Mateo Kovacic however, does.
Mateo Kovacic will join Chelsea on a season-long loan from Real Madrid as part of the deal for Thibaut Courtois 🔵 pic.twitter.com/wLbyWx2Lnv
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 8, 2018
It’s understandable to play second fiddle to two of the world’s greatest midfielders right now when you’re 21. That was Kovacic’s age when he arrived at the Spanish capital. But at 24, Kovacic is on the lookout for first team football which is very understandable for a player of his caliber. And despite Real being almost helpless to help him find minutes on a weekly basis, he did say he understands the club’s decisions, “I would like to play more at Real Madrid because I love football and I love being on the pitch,” he said. “I know that it’s difficult to be a starter at Real Madrid, especially when I arrived at a really young age. “I understand the situation, but because of that I believe the best thing for me would be to go to another club where I’d have the opportunity to play regularly as a starter. I think I can have this opportunity and it’s one I want right now.”
Courtois wasn’t the only rebel to have secured a move. There were multiple reports in Spain suggesting Kovacic also went on a mini riot himself with the Real authority as they failed to promise him first team football. He even refused to train until the situation was solved. In the end, Real did what sounds the best for all three parties right now. With Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui in charge, he’ll definitely push for Dani Ceballos to get more minutes than last season. So, even if Real don’t get a replacement for Kovacic, it’s not the end of the world. Kovacic gets what he longed for, regular first team football to establish himself as an elite midfielder. And lastly, Chelsea. Who finally gets a seriously talented and attacking minded player in their midfield.
The Chelsea player who might be the happiest seeing Kovacic arrive has to be Alvaro Morata. The duo played together at Real during the 2016-17 season. With Chelsea fans turning their backs against him, Morata can really make do with some assists from ‘Kova’ in midfield. The chemistry between the two is already there since their days back in Spain. Kovacic can really become the missing piece in the Sarri puzzle in Chelsea. One of the main reason Chelsea were so underwhelming last season was due to the fact that they lacked creativity in their midfield. Fabregas’ off form and Barkley’s injuries didn’t help either. But with Kovacic, that’s all about to change.
I am really happy and excited to be here @ChelseaFC. It is a privilege and an amazing feeling to be part of this club and I can't wait to start with trainings and matches. I will try to do my best for this club and hope to bring joy to our fans. pic.twitter.com/OMydrc2i3j
— Mateo Kovačić (@Mateo_Kova23) August 9, 2018
In Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, Jorginho and Kante will play the defensive roles. Kante as the ‘Destroyer’ while Jorginho will operate more as a CM. He’d be assigned with providing Hazard, Willian with passes from the midfield, as well as helping out Azpilicueta and others in defence with Kante, especially during counter attacks. And Kovacic can play freely across the field. With his astonishing ball control, complemented by his immaculate dribbling and fabulous vision, he truly is the complete modern day midfielder package. Maurizio Sarri has got himself a gem of a midfielder who can do a bit of everything extremely efficiently. A ‘Jack of all trades’ if you may.
At Inter Milan, Kovacic showed what he can do when given independence to play freely in midfield. At Real, his roles were somewhat compromised, yet he still proved his class. The Bernabeu faithful were left disheartened at the sight of him leaving. With all the chaos that’s been going around with Courtois, Kovacic’s transfer has gone under the radar. Not many seem to understand what a great signing he actually is for Chelsea. First team football’s guaranteed at Chelsea for him. Now, it’s time for him to show what he’s truly made of. And if Kovacic can fire, don’t be surprised to see Chelsea achieving greater heights this season.