In honor of Mateo Kovacic’s birthday today, we are taking a look at how he has risen from his early days at Dinamo Zagreb to becoming one of the best (If not the best) midfielders in the premier league at Chelsea.
The story of how this silky smooth Croatian magician has elevated his career to the level that he has currently achieved is quite remarkable, especially considering the fact that he is yet to reach the pinnacle of his footballing abilities. With all that has happened during Mateo’s consistent rise to the top of the ladder, one thing you can definitely say is that he is a player whose talent is undebatable. The 2019/2020 premier league season has seen him crown himself as the undeniable MVP for Chelsea and though the common onlooker would assume that this is expected from a player of his calibre, that wasn’t always the case.
Early on in his career, Mateo started off as a player who was clearly gifted with undeniable ability. He was one of the few talents who had the technical ability and ball control of a seasoned veteran and it was clear that Kovacic was always bound to play in the upper echelons of the football community, especially after a countless number of dominant performances in the Croatian first division. When Real Madrid snapped him up from Inter Milan in 2015, Many envisioned that Mateo would replace the great Luka Modric at the heart of Madrid’s midfield in the years to come, but as time elapsed, it became apparent that the Ballon d’Or winner was not slowing down any time soon and due to Mateo’s lack of game time, he was looking to leave the club to in order to play more regularly.
Kovacic becomes a Blue
After a dramatic start to a summer that saw Antonio Conte leave and Sarri take over, Kovacic came to the club on loan from Real Madrid looking to make an impact and establish his place as soon as possible. When he was granted the opportunity to impress, he most definitely did not disappoint. On that faithful sunny afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Mateo Kovacic was brought on around the 60th minute and the silky Croatian wasted no time in showcasing his talent. On that day, the only way you could tell the difference between him and Sir Eden Michael Hazard was the number he dawned on his shirt. Both similar in size and movement, they controlled the game effortlessly and flawlessly with stupendous statistics to back the undeniable masterclass. As brilliant as that performance was, it wasn’t a true reflection of how the rest of his season unfolded.
The Achilles heel
Mateo Kovacic’s skill set is best utilized when he is playing alone at the base of a midfield three or as one of the players in a midfield two, but due to Sarri relying on his main man Jorginho in that position, Kovacic mainly played on the left-hand side of a midfield three. Kovacic has never been someone who had goals to his game, so when you merge those two things together, the end result was a number of questionable and unsatisfactory performances. What made matters worse was the fact that Sarri Opted to consistently substitute Barkley for Kovacic and vice versa. As the season went on, it was clear that the fan base was divided, with the majority of the fan base being on the fence and not sure if he should be signed permanently or if he should return back to Madrid.
Unlocking The Trojan horse
After a season filled with Up’s and down’s, Chelsea were banned from signing new players, but luckily for us, we had the ability to sign Kovacic since he was registered to us before the ban was set in motion. Majority of the fan base was still undecided about him and with Real asking for £40 million, we were all left at a standstill. Then all of a sudden, Up steps Frank Lampard who replaced Sarri as the manager of Chelsea and decided to take on Kovacic because he believed that he would be an ideal signing for his philosophy. What a masterstroke that turned out to be. From the very first match of this season, Kovacic hit the ground running and is yet to set a foot wrong in any of his appearances. He has been given the chance to play in his ideal position and he has just kept on growing and improving his game. On the days when we play badly, he still always manages to put in a 7/10 minimum. From his first volleyed goal to his sweet dribbling and ball control, he has been extremely entertaining this season and he was levels above the rest of his teammates. It’s almost impossible to argue that he wasn’t uncontested MVP of Chelsea’s season.
A Monster Unleashed.
The story of how Mateo Kovacic has obtained the MVP crown reminds me a lot about the Trojan Horse. No one at the start of the season would have even considered him to be one of the top players of the season, talk less of being THE top player of the season. He was Frank’s secret weapon that has been unleashed into the world unchained, and I simply cannot wait to see what he does with better players around him next season.
By Dami Adeleye