Mateo Kovacic is the feature interview in the latest official Chelsea magazine, with our Croatian midfielder reflecting on how his permanent switch from Madrid to London has left him feeling settled both on and off the field.
Having joined the club permanently from Real Madrid last summer after a season on loan last term, the 25-year-old has discovered some of his best form under new head coach Frank Lampard. He has played 32 times already this campaign, breaking his goalscoring duck away in Valencia and impressing with performances in the middle of the pitch.
‘Maybe it is because I have signed here [permanently] so now I am more calm,’ he told Chelsea, which is out now. ‘Because last year was a loan, it was maybe more difficult to prove myself, but this year I feel a lot better because I had one year’s adaptation and now I am feeling good.
‘The guys are amazing, the staff are really good and my family is happy. It is really important to me that my family feels good and for now everything is amazing so we are enjoying everything about London and Chelsea, it’s really nice.’
Even the weather is an enjoyable aspect of west London life for Kovacic, an unusual admission for a man who lived for three years in the Spanish capital.
‘The country suits me because the weather is not so hot,’ he admitted. ‘That’s always important because when I trained in Madrid it was a little bit difficult, always 30 degrees. It was tough sometimes to train but here the climate is amazing so I’m enjoying it a lot.
‘I’m used to this weather because I lived in Austria and was raised there, and the weather is the same. For training it is amazing. Maybe for our families it’s not so good but for us players, it’s good!’
Two hundred up for Hayes
Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes recently marked 200 games in charge of the Blues and the 43-year-old is in a reflective mood as she looks back on an incredible seven-and-a-half years at the helm in an exclusive magazine interview.
On changing the landscape of women’s football in London and the whole country after she was appointed shortly after the London Olympic Games in 2012, Hayes recalls: ‘I remember Bruce Buck [Chelsea chairman] saying to me in a board meeting: ‘Emma, if you go into a pub and the conversation turns to women’s football, everybody will talk about Arsenal.’
‘That has always stuck in my head. I wanted to change the conversation. I imagined what it would be like years later for people to talk about women’s football and saying that Chelsea are the best team in England. That was a big motivation.’
Beginning the Barcelona rivalry
This season is the 20th anniversary of our first campaign in the Champions League and the Chelsea magazine is marking it by reliving some of our best-ever matches in Europe’s premier club competition.
This edition looks back at our memorable quarter-final tie against Barcelona in 1999/2000, when a brace from Tore Andre Flo added to Gianfranco Zola’s opener to hand us a first-leg advantage before the return in the Catalan city.
While it may ultimately have ended in tears at the Nou Camp, the encounter remains a hugely significant moment in the history of the club and one of the best nights of Flo’s career. ‘I have never felt an atmosphere like that at Stamford Bridge,’ our former Norwegian striker said afterwards.
‘At the final whistle, to walk in and hear the crowd going that crazy is one of the most special moments that I have had as a player.’
How Harris’s Chelsea innings could have been so different
Ron Harris remains the highest appearance-maker in Chelsea history, with the hardman defender racking up 795 games during his 19-year career at Stamford Bridge. Yet it almost never got started at all as Harris had the option to play another sport altogether in his formative years, as he reveals to the Chelsea magazine.
‘As a kid, I used to play a lot of cricket, as well as football, and when I left school at 15 I was offered a contract to go on the ground-staff at Lord’s, which is where Middlesex play and it’s considered the home of cricket,’ he explained.
‘The thing is, the offer was £4 per week; Chelsea wanted to sign me as well and they offered to pay me £7 per week and they gave you a rail pass. I think that was one of the big reasons why I took the plunge and went to Chelsea.’
The rest, as they say, is history as Chopper captained the Blues in 324 of his 795 appearances and led us to FA Cup and European glory for the first time.
There are photo gallery specials on some notable players to have represented both Chelsea and Arsenal over the years, following our 200th meeting with the Gunners last month, as well as a look back at the career of Eni Aluko following her recently-announced retirement from the game.
Meanwhile, this month’s Academy Q&A feature is with young midfielder Lewis Bate, who is enjoying an impressive campaign for our youngsters.
The February edition of Chelsea Magazine is available to buy for £3.95 in the Chelsea Megastore at Stamford Bridge and all good newsagents. It can also be ordered online.