Friday, October 19, 2018

What Can Chelsea Fans Expect from Croatia Midfielder Mateo Kovacic?

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Mateo Kovacic is moving to London.

Chelsea have announced a loan deal has been struck with Real Madrid who will, in exchange be getting the Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Blues ended up having quite an eventful race towards the finish line of this summer’s transfer window.

The London-based club ended up setting the goalkeeper world record with the £71 million forked out for Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

It is Mateo Kovacic, however, who stands as the most prominent piece of business for the Blues under Maurizio Sarri. Having already acquired Jorginho from Napoli, the Italian manager will now have a fully loaded midfield that will complement his style of play perfectly.

Who is Mateo Kovacic?

The Croatian international midfielder requires little introduction. Once one of Europe’s most coveted teenage prodigies moved to Inter Milan in 2013 at the age of 18 and wasted no time in showcasing his potential and quality in Italy.

Along came Real Madrid two years later and Kovacic moved to Spain where he was expected to ‘become the best player in the world in his position’. Three years onwards and there are a few people that could actually put a finger on what that position truly is.

During his time in Italy, Mateo Kovacic was deployed in a number of different roles. He played as a wing, occupying the left side of the pitch, whereas he would also be slotted into the attacking midfielder position. Ultimately, there were times he would be used as a deep-lying playmaker.

During his three-year stay at Real Madrid, Mateo Kovacic widely struggled to break into the first team. He made the total of 73 La Liga appearances during his stay at Santiago Bernabeu, mostly acting as a cover for Los Blancos untouchable midfield trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

What Are His Strengths (and Weaknesses)?

Despite being only 24 years old, Mateo Kovacic boasts a formidable record.

His trophy cabinet contains 13 major trophies to date, three of which are the Champions League medal in last three years with Real Madrid. On the flip side, Kovacic never got a chance to take part in any of the three Champions League finals, not even making it into the squad in 2016.

Albeit a rather young midfielder, Mateo Kovacic boasts plenty of international experience knowing he played in three different leagues already – with Premier League set to become the fourth different competition he’s played in.

With his own style of play, Mateo Kovacic should be a perfect fit for Maurizio Sarri’s strategy. The Italian is an advocate of high-tempo football – with plenty of attacking, passing and position rotations. Kovacic’s versatility should be a real asset for the Blues and Sarri is expected to harness his mobility, attack-mindedness and technical ability much to the supporters’ pleasure. With N’Golo Kante holding his back in a deep-lying defence-oriented position, Kovacic will be able to flaunt the full array of his distributing abilities as a No.6.

Still, we should not be surprised to see him burst forward where he’d fully exploit a fantastic passing range and skill on the ball.

Can Chelsea Compete for Silverware?

Maurizio Sarri was quick to restore faith and boost the spirits at Stamford Bridge after a dispirited season but the Italian has a difficult task on his hands.

Chelsea have been without the World Cup stars for the great part of the preseason and it’s fair to say that Sarri will use the first couple of weeks of the Premier League season to oil the machine and fit in all the pieces.

With Jorginho and now Mateo Kovacic expected to dominate the midfield, Maurizio Sarri could decide to deploy his biggest first-team star Eden Hazard in a more advanced attacking position. The Belgian flirted with the idea of leaving Stamford Bridge himself but appears to be tempted by the Sarri-ball prospect where he’d be deployed in a false nine position whenever (and if) Alvaro Morata fails to persuade the Italian of his ability.

Chelsea have been given an early price of 12/1 to lift the Premier League trophy this season. Let’s not forget that Blues have a tendency to win the title in their managers’ first seasons at the club.

Knowing they won’t have any international distractions during this campaign, the aforementioned betting odds will instantly gain additional value, won’t they?


Milos Markovic

Formerly a Chief Editor at the largest sports site in Serbia, Milos Markovic is an avid football writer who contributes to a variety of online football magazines - most prominently and His feature articles, editorials, interviews and match analyses have provided informed opinion and views, helping the football aficionados keep up to date on relevant events in world football.



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