After turning his loan into a permanent transfer from Real Madrid this summer, Mateo Kovacic has spoken of his delight at agreeing a five-year contract at Chelsea and explains what he is hoping to achieve this season under new head coach Frank Lampard.
The Croatian international was part of the second group to arrive in Ireland for our pre-season training camp, a week after completing his move from Spain to Stamford Bridge. He was quickly put to work at our Dublin base and could feature in the weekend game against St Patrick’s Athletic.
However, before turning attentions to preparations for the new campaign, the 25-year old reflected on the opportunity to stay at Chelsea.
‘It means a lot because I saw the club wanted me and I wanted to stay here from the first day,’ the midfielder explained. ‘We had a good connection so I’m happy to stay here, to work hard and play well.
‘I had a good relationship with the fans from the start. We had some good games and some bad games but I think in the end we did a good job.’
Kovacic made 51 appearances for the Blues last term and played an important role as we claimed a third-place finish in the Premier League and the Europa League title. He feels those team successes, alongside his individual progress in a new league, made it a positive season in SW6. After an important summer rest, the focus now switches to pre-season and adapting to work under new coaching staff.
‘It was my first year so it was very difficult but I think I did well,’ he continued. ‘It could have been even better but we won a trophy, which is always important, and we finished third.
‘It’s important to rest well because we had a tough season with a lot of ups and downs. We were tired physically and mentally but now we are ready and preparing to have a great season.
‘I’m looking forward to working hard - I’m enjoying it but already it’s been very tough. I’ve never had such a hard start! The coach has said how important it will be to work hard and prepare for a long and tough season.
‘It’s the most important time of year because you’re preparing in one month for the whole year. We will have some big games, we already have a final for the Super Cup, so we need to prepare well to win an early trophy.’
For a midfield player of any age, Lampard is a role model and an example of what can be achieved by combining talent with hard work and an unrelenting desire for self-improvement. Therefore, Kovacic is understandably excited at the opportunity to work closely with the club’s record goalscorer and admits he is hopeful he can replicate Lampard’s goal threat from midfield in the 2019/20 campaign.
‘I’m looking forward to working with him a lot,’ he said. ‘He was an amazing player and he showed last season that he is a good coach as well. I’m looking forward to learning how to score from him because he scored quite a lot and me not so much last season!
‘I’m maybe not exactly the same type of midfielder as he was but he had some strong abilities, especially scoring goals. He was a hard worker so I’m looking forward to being better in this aspect, in working hard, fighting on the pitch and scoring goals.’
Kovacic already has a long list of honours on his CV, including Champions League wins with Real and league titles from Croatia and Spain, as well as a World Cup runners-up medal. Yet he remains hungry for more silverware, something he believes can continue to be achieved at Chelsea in the coming years.
‘We have two big games to start the season,’ he said, referring to our league opener at Old Trafford and Super Cup in Istanbul against Liverpool, ‘but we’re players who like to play big games so it will be nice. I think the whole team and staff is motivated and that’s important now.
‘I want to win a lot of games and a lot of trophies. The most important things in football are to enjoy yourself, play well and win trophies.’