Mateo Kovacic was denied the opportunity to play directly up against Billy Gilmour in Croatia’s Euro 2020 group game against Scotland. However he has already seen enough of his fellow midfielder at Chelsea to speak highly of him at the tournament.
Kovacic was performing media duties ahead of the Croatian team’s last-16 meeting with Spain on Monday. They progressed by winning at Hampden Park, knocking the Scots out in the process, although following his outstanding display against England, Gilmour was not involved due to his positive Covid test.
‘I did talk with him on the phone as soon as it came out that he was positive,’ Kovacic told reporters.
‘I was very sad about that because he is doing excellently and he is my team-mate.
‘I don't give him too much advice but we do talk a lot. I have seen Billy's abilities from the first time he started training with the first team. He can become a really excellent player so it is up to him to work hard and to get better with each day. I am sure that, with his personality, he is going to do that.’
A Kovacic injury towards the end of the season meant he was absent when Gilmour was enjoying Chelsea minutes on the pitch but earlier in the campaign, they played together in the FA Cup run especially.
‘Billy’s qualities cannot be brought into question,’ said the 27-year-old. ‘He is still a young player but he has played a lot of good matches for Chelsea and for his national team.
‘He is definitely going to be an important player for Chelsea in the near future.’
Meanwhile, it is reported that Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, who are isolating due to contact with Gilmour, continued to trained separately from the rest of the England squad on Saturday. England’s game against Germany is on Tuesday.