As Mateo Kovacic’s season-long loan at Chelsea comes to an end this weekend, it’s about time for the club to decide whether or not to sign the Croatian permanently. Giving his minimal influence, the latter will be shocking.
Maurizio Sarri’s decision to bring Kovacic from Real Madrid last summer was understandable. The Italian sort after a creative spark in midfield to compliment the work-rate and intelligence of N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.
Cesc Fabregas wasn’t an option for the ex-Napoli boss who preferred Ross Barkley to the Spaniard. Although blessed with the sacred ability to break down a defense with key passes, Fabregas was perceived as pretty vain without the ball.
Enter Kovacic. He began his career at Dynamo Zagreb, moving to Inter Milan three years later. In Milan, he was compared to Kaka, hailed as “a complete player” by Inter legend Boban. He was eventually sold to Madrid in 2015.
At Chelsea, he was expected to become the next Frank Lampard owing to similar physique and style. An impressive dribbler, he likes to pick up the ball deep to drive forward. His talent lies in his ability to beat a few defenders deep, open up play and lay off an easy ball into space.
However, the Croat is not a player that takes many shots or tries to play the final killer ball. His industry and dribbling open up space for his teammates to take advantage. Lampard, meanwhile, lived for goals.
Kovacic began his English foray as Sarri’s first choice. He rode his luck until the year’s turn. Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced it with misfortune. The Englishman is better in possession, quick, attacks, defends and actually provides a consistent goal-threat that Kovacic does not.
Kovacic made 47 appearances for Chelsea in all competitions, including 35 starts. He’s a tidy footballer, he’s technically gifted, he’s got a good turn of pace. However totally ineffective going forward. Supposedly playing as an advanced midfielder, he has registered just two assists in the Premier League this season.
Kovacic doesn’t score. He is too shy to celebrate. He doesn’t create enough too. He is neat and tidy on the ball, but that’s as good as it gets.
Of course, Chelsea may not even be able to complete the deal if the looming transfer ban is implemented this summer, but a permanent move for Kovacic would be a huge waste of money and a talented academy player would once again find their path to the first team blocked by a mediocre senior player.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
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