Steps Up: Mario Pasalic

Mario Pasalic is the latest subject of our feature focusing on players developing out on loan.

The 21-year-old Croatian has spent this term with Monaco, currently second in Ligue 1, having helped La Liga side Elche to a 13th-place finish last season.

A tall, two-footed midfielder, Pasalic has impressed in France and has netted seven goals so far, including two in Champions League qualifying fixtures earlier in the campaign. He is hoping to finish with a flourish too once he returns from a back injury sustained last month, as he tells the official Chelsea website…

First of all Mario, how have you been finding things at Monaco?

I have been satisfied. I have scored some goals and played in some Champions League games and then in the Europa League. We have been doing well in the league too, we’re in second position in the table.

I have had some injuries in the last two months but I hope I will be okay to return to the squad next week.

You played in La Liga last season and now you’re in Ligue 1. What are the differences between the two?

 Pasalic in action for Elche against Real Madrid last season

It’s a big thing at the age of 20 to play first in the Spanish league and now in the French league, two of the top five in Europe. That helps any young player progressing in the world of football. 

Speaking about the differences between the leagues, I can say La Liga is more technical while Ligue 1 is more about strength and power.

At Elche I was more defensive whereas with Monaco I play further forward. As a midfielder I have a lot of space to work in and run in. I am a box-to-box player, so I know I have to help in defence but also if we are attacking I need to be in an area to score from, or to shoot from outside the box.

A team-mate of yours at Monaco is very familiar to Chelsea fans…

Yes, of course, Ricardo Carvalho! He always speaks to me and he tries to help me as much as he can. He is a great player, a big name and a big personality. I sometimes speak with him about Paulo [Ferreira, and now our loan player technical coach] too!

You’ve also been regularly lining up alongside Jeremy Toulalan and Joao Moutinho in midfield, players with over 100 international caps between them…

Yes, they have a lot of experience and it’s a real pleasure to play with them. They have really helped me in different areas of my game, and like Carvalho they are big characters who have played many huge matches. I have learned a lot. 

 Pasalic played against Tottenham in this season's Europa League group stage

What has it been like living in different countries?

I always try to adapt to the lifestyle and the language as quickly as possible. Here in Monaco I have a Croatian team-mate, the goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, who is very helpful. My girlfriend is here with me too and family and friends come and visit so everything is good. And of course Monte Carlo is a beautiful city with beautiful weather, which helps!

Finally Mario, what are your ambitions for the rest of the season?

Firstly, I want to get back on the pitch and continue to play with Monaco. There are a couple of months of the season left and I’ll be trying to do my best.

Also, I am the captain of the Croatian Under-21 team and now I am aiming to maybe try to get in the full squad for the European Championships this summer. That is another ambition.