When Chelsea signed Matteo Kovacic from Real Madrid on loan many Chelsea fans were confused regarding why they had signed another central midfielder. They already have Cesc Fabregas, N’Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater, Ross Barkley and a returning Reuben Loftus-Cheek from Crystal Palace. Add to the equation Jorginho who was acquired a few days before Kovacic’s arrival. However, the doubters have been proven wrong as the former Dinamo Zagreb man has been a revelation.
The World Cup finalist is one of the world game’s up and coming stars. At 24 he is entering the years where he has to be producing performances of merit to keep himself in a starting XI and not bouncing around from team to team. After his move to Real Madrid from Inter Milan in 2015 did not fully work out he has a chance of really showing his credentials at Chelsea.
The beauty of Kovacic is that although he is naturally defensive minded he is a very intelligent player. He likes things to be played quickly and sharply so that the opposition do not have time to think. That suits the free flowing madness of Maurizio Sarri’s football where his full backs are encouraged to shoot more than his midfielders.
That is fine by Kovacic. He is not a goal scorer; he actually has more cards than he does goals across his career. This season Sarri has deployed him as a natural number 8 but whereas Chelsea fans have been used to seeing Frank Lampard arriving from deep and finding the net, they are starting to see a player arriving from deep with the ball already at his feet.
He loves to drive at players and push forward as much as possible and with all the space in the midfield he can do that. He knows that with the support of Jorginho and Kante that they can dominant the centre of the park.
The loan signing is a clear improvement on the likes of Barkley, Drinkwater and Fabregas and looks to have already had an effect on the side. Chelsea look strong and attack minded once again as opposed to last season where they looked a shadow of their former selves despite winning the F.A Cup.
It seems a shame for England fans to see Barkley, Drinkwater and Loftus-Cheek, in particular, shunted out of the way but Chelsea fans won’t mind when the quality is Kovacic who at times looks more like Eden Hazard than he does a defensive minded midfielder. One problem they have is that it is just a loan signing and they are helping Madrid in the long term whereas it is a short term fix for Chelsea.
If performances continue this way then Kovacic might be the top of Sarri’s Christmas list as they look to tie him down to a permanent deal at Stamford Bridge.