Mateo Kovacic ranks Eden Hazard as one of the best players he has lined up alongside, no small praise from a man whose CV includes Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and recent World Cup finalists Croatia.
Kovacic has made a bright start to life at Chelsea since joining on a season-long loan from the Bernabeu, and his interplay with Hazard, especially in the home wins over Arsenal and Cardiff, has really stood out. They are two highly technical players capable of dictating a game or shifting its momentum.
‘For me he has everything, but the thing that has impressed me the most is that they tackle him so much and he is always on his feet,’ Kovacic said of Hazard.
‘England is a really tough league, the toughest in the world for me, and he just plays with the defenders. He’s an incredible player but also a nice team-mate, a nice guy, and I have really enjoyed the time playing with him.
When I came here I didn’t realise he was so good. He is one of the best players I have played with. The stuff he is doing is amazing; he is helping the team a lot and I hope he will continue like that, or do even better because I think he can do better for sure.
— Mateo Kovacic
That is a sentiment Kovacic echoes in his assessment of the team as a whole. He is yet to taste anything other than victory since debuting in our first London derby of the season, and ahead of our second in Stratford today, the midfielder is not getting complacent knowing full well West Ham picked up their first league win last time out.
‘They are a good team with great players, and they showed that against Everton. It will be a tough game, but from what I have seen in England, every game is tough! We will need to play well.
‘It’s important to keep winning. We need to have this mentality to try to win every game, and for now I think we are doing very well.
‘Everybody can see Chelsea are trying to play attacking football, football that the fans like to watch, so I think we will have a good season this year.
‘We can improve a lot because we have great potential, but the team is doing great and that is the most important thing for now.’