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The Kovačić Conundrum

January 10, 2019




Mateo Kovačić.


When will he arrive? Has he arrived? Where is he going?



After riding the bench behind 2018 Ballon D’or winner Luka Modrić – both at Real Madrid and the Croatian national team for the past three years – Kovačić finally got his chance to shine as Real Madrid loaned him out to Chelsea this past summer. It was a move that was intended to give Kova first-team football and test his skills against some of Europe’s best alongside new Chelsea teammates Eden Hazard, David Luiz and N’Golo Kante, to name a few.



And so far, Kovačić has done ‘okay’. He has yet to hit the back of the net in a Chelsea shirt and has three assists to his name. Kovačić started the season in the Chelsea starting XI but has spilt time off the bench with Englishman Ross Barkley; as they play the same position.



Chelsea will be battling for a top-four spot in the Premiership this season and can use all the help they can get. The next 6-18 months will be critical for Mateo Kovačić and his career.



With Real Madrid in absolute shambles this season and an aging Luka Modrić still running their midfield, will they permanently move Kovačić in the summer or keep him for themselves?



If Kovačić has a good spring, I can see him becoming Luka’s heir at the Bernabeu. But he will have to deliver at Stamford Bridge first and play to his potential.



The next 18 months also ties into Kovačić’s future in the Vatreni midfield. At 33 years old, it is expected that Luka Modrić will end his international career for Croatia in the summer of 2020 after the Euros conclude. That opens the door for Kovačić to take the reigns of the Croatian midfield for another World Cup run in 2022.



But things need to start lining up in 2019 for that to happen. He needs to be a permanent fixture in Chelsea’s squad for the rest of this season before Real Madrid decides what they want to do with Kovačić.



The future will be bright for the 24 year-old Kovačić, but he needs to start showing us the magic week in and week out. He already has one of the greatest midfielders of all time – Luka Modrić – to show him the ropes.



Now is the time for Kovačić to break out of his cocoon and show the world that Luka Modrić and the Croatian midfield was not a ‘one-time thing’.


Kovačić December Highlights (Thank you Dannyj)




Ante Kvartuč
Posted By: Ante Kvartuč 24 comments

  1. Maminjo says:

    He’s a good midfielder. He’s just not the two-way midfielder people were hoping he was.

    He’s great defensively, great at maintaining possession and at Tika Taka, but doesn’t do anything in the opponent’s third.

    He’ll be fine for us, but guys like Vlašić and Brekalo will be our offensive sparks in the midfield.

  2. Rafael says:

    I agree with the others. Great player who will only get better with time. A possession oriented player. His talents will be more relied upon when Modric retires from the national team.

  3. Eric says:

    Chelsea desperately need a world class striker, which would then elevate Kovacic’s game. He doesn’t have anyone to feed it to (except Hazard who is always marked). If he regains his starting position, he should probably stay, since real are in shambles.

  4. Maminjo says:

    Chelsea won’t spend that kind of money for Kovacic.

    He’s good, but for 60 million Euro, they don’t need him. They would be better off using that money (along with whatever they can sell Morata for) and notch themselves a star striker.

    I can see Kovacic going back to Serie A if he doesn’t want to go back to Real.

  5. Dannyj says:

    So do u guys think then he can become that defensive midfielder that we need and can run that ball up the way he does. Or is he too soft for that?

    I really hope that krovinovic kid gets his form back. He really does look like he has potential for us in the midfield

    I like the way he has gone and not went to a big league off the start and got a bit lost like a Rog balic coric

  6. Soul Champ says:

    18-22 yr old conundrum..

    How many kids have gone side ways from ages 18-22?

    Brekalo played on loan at Stuttgart and now plays at wolfsburg.

    Vlašić was going wrong until CSKA loan.

    Kovačić has had bright spots over the years but between injuries and lack of consistent minutes he has stalled.

    Not reallly sure why so much footballing talent can’t attack the goal with aggression?

    It’s like he has played with too many big players around him and needed to defer.

    Ironic how both Mateo and Madrid could have used each other this year.

    If I were Madrid I would keep him.

    He is the goods and just needs a clear role to express himself.

    Seems to be a natural 8?

    But needs to shoot and create more in final third.

  7. Poglavnik says:

    I don’t think he has the discipline to be a good holding midfielder. He doesn’t make the simple pass. He holds it too long and constantly gets in jams where’s he’s gotta dribble through 2 or 3 guys.

  8. Maminjo says:

    If this was 10 years ago, I would be upset.

    But we have so much depth now, I’m not too concerned.

    If Kovačić doesn’t improve, then it will be another World Cup where he can be a benchwarmer behind Rakitić, Brozović, Vlašić, Brekalo, and any new kid that breaks into the first team over these next few years (and there always is one).

  9. Medo says:

    Speaking of new kids coming thru the ranks does anyone know of any 16-18 year olds with a bright future in our youth system?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hey Medo, I have a few names for you. Antonio Marin just turned 18 on the 9th and is an incredible player…he has drawn comparisons to Neymar…he plays for Dinamo….Ante Palaversa and Michele Šego play for Hajduk and have lots of potential and skill…Palaversa has been one of Hajduk’s best this year….they are both 18….David Čolina, plays for AS Monaco, is a great defender along with Mario Vusković for Hajduk…Dinamo has a 16 or 17 year old goalie named Renato Josipović who looks real good…Roko Baturina is an 18 year old striker for Dinamo II and plays a similar game to Mandžo…speaking of Mandžo, there is another striker who plays for the Polish Leauge named Sandr Kulenović…he’s a baller and scores like crazy….the future is bright

  11. Crotown says:

    Don’t count him in as the Modric replacement when he retires- good player with huge potential but like a few comments have noted – he’ll have some serious competition- our U18 is loaded- bring on the competition- I like Kova but dude needs to work on his foot speed- he has size , strength- get that NFL training with first 3 stride explosion and he’ll be huge for the Vatreni

  12. The Great Anonymous Doom says:

    Kovacic will be a crucial player for Croatia in it’s next two tournament runs (he will begin playing more in qualifiers to spare Modric and Rakitic), but I predict that he future leader of the Croatian midfied will be Marcelo Brozovic. Not only is he already a crucial player for Croatia, he also is the centerpiece of Internaziole, even if Icardi is the one who gets the big press attention. A midfield of Brozovic, Kovacic, and Rog could be spectacular given the athleticism and creativity of those three players.

  13. Maminjo says:

    Kovačić and Rog?

    I’d put both of them behind Vlašić already. Modrić, Rakitić and Brozović are all obviously ahead as well, but aside from Modrić, all of the others will be playing in the next World Cup.

    If Perišić, Kramarić and Rebić are still starting, I’d even consider slotting Kramarić back a bit so that Brekalo starts as well. Brekalo will be a Perišić clone.

    Honestly, I don’t know how Kovačić or Rog can ever be starters in our squad. Kovačić maybe, but he needs to take one big step forward in his game (and hope none of our 16-18 year olds make any strides).

  14. Maminjo says:

    So long as Hajduk continue to play these youngsters, I’m happy.

    The last thing I want to see is each of them being sold off for the typical Hajduk fee of €3 million or less.

    Hajduk has destroyed so much youth by blowing their load on the first offer they can get for any of their players.

  15. CroatiaU14 says:

    @maminjo….agreed…clubs around Europe want Palaversa, Šego, and Vusković and I’m hoping Hajduk will do what Dinamo did for Marin and keep them in Split so that thy could get minutes and more experience…the future looks good

  16. Anonymous says:


    Lol, Hajduk have destroyed many youngsters?

    You say 3mil, well that’s what Udinese payed for Balic and at the moment it’s looking like Hajduk made out like bandits with that sale.
    Hajduk knew that Balic wasn’t ever going to be worth more than 3mil.

    Wolfsburg payed 6mil for Brekalo (8 games in the HNL, only 8!) and he’s doing very well.

    Udinese payed 3mil for Balic (32 games in the HNL), and like I said, that’s looking to be a great bit of buisness by Hajduk.

    So a guy that played 8 games in the HNL went for more than a guy that played 32 games in the HNL, why do you think that is?

    Can you name some of the other “youngsters Hajduk has destroyed”?

  17. Maminjo says:

    @ Anonymous

    Sure. Just off the top of my head…in just the past few years, you have Ivano Balic, Josip Radosevic, Ante Vukusic, Josip Elez, Toma Basic, possibly Stipe Letica, and almost Nikola Vlasic.

    Re: The Ivano Balic sale…
    Hajduk made out like bandits? Really?

    You could argue that Hajduk ruined Balic by selling him so young and for so cheap, and he did not develop as a result of rotting on the bench for two years, away from home, in a country where he doesn’t know the language, for a coach who will never feel pressured to start him (as he is not a big money transfer).

    Do you recall that Hajduk also wanted to sell Nikola Vlasic immediately after he became the youngest ever player to score in a Europa game (when he scored against Dundalk back in 2014)?

    Vlasic was still 16 years old, gathered a lot of hype after that goal, and Hajduk was looking to sell him for (you guessed it) 3 Million Euro. It was actually Tottenham that made the offer too.

    But unlike most Croatian kids, the Vlasic family were not starved for quick money and his father Josko Vlasic, prevented Hajduk from selling Nikola. He actually put a stop to multiple transfers (that’s how pathetic and desperate Hajduk were).

    Then, for about three years, Nikola wasn’t really talked about much. He regularly played for Hajduk, continued to go through his growing pains (like all kids his age do) then eventually made those strides, became captain, and was sold to Everton for a record-breaking 10 million pounds!

    This was all thanks to Josko Vlasic and NOT those idiots at Hajduk. Now, things didn’t work out at Everton due to Koeman being fired shortly after, but since Vlasic was allowed to develop at Hajduk during those critical years, he went out on loan to team that wanted to incorporate his skills into their offence and now we have a huge talent on the national team who is still only 21 years old.

    Hajduk Split has done this so many times with Balic, Radosevic, Vukusic, Elez, Basic, Letica, etc. Selling them all for CHUMP change even though they needed a couple extra years to hone their skills at Hajduk.

    The teams that they sell these guys to are either crappy teams that never develop anyone (i.e. Pescara) or teams where these guys would never get a chance to play (i.e. Napoli).

    Hajduk has no faith in their own ability to scout and develop talent, so they try and sell sell sell the first chance they get. They let players like Ivan Perisic, Dado Prso, Luka Modric, Nikica Jelavic, go for nothing because they thought they were not good enough. Is this for real? These guys became key National Team players and Hajduk could not recognize the talent?

    You brought up Brekalo as an example, but he was a Dinamo kid…and yes, you prove my point that he is doing well. Dinamo sold him for 7 million Euro and that was only because Brekalo’s contract was ending and they could’ve lost him for nothing. Otherwise, Dinamo would have kept him and sold him for triple that amount (like they did with Marko Pjaca). Dinamo is also gonna make a killing on Dani Olmo as well. They don’t blow their load on the first offer. They develop their players and sell them when they are ready to GOOD teams who will develop them (which has benefitted our National Team).

    The only good thing Hajduk did in recent years was keeping and developing Lovre Kalinic, but they still sold him off for chump change for 3 million Euro as well. Karlo Letica is another keeper they sold off quickly (also for the same amount) but should have stayed a few years longer and is now struggling at Brugges (he’s lost his starting spot and hasn’t played since October).

    Of course, Dinamo keeps Livakovic and develops him well (even though he has less talent than any Hajduk keeper over the past decade). Now, he’s a pretty damn good keeper for Dinamo.

    It’s just a shame, because guys like Stipe Letica, Toma Basic, etc..are all very talented players who simply need to play. Hajduk could have actually used these guys and probably would be in Europa if they kept a few of these players.
    Now, both players are rotting on the bench at Brugges and Bordeaux during these very critical young years. Their careers will go the same way as Radosevic and the others.

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