Thomas Tuchel has spoken highly of Blues midfielder Mateo Kovacic ahead of our quarter-final tie with the player's former club Real Madrid.
Chelsea signed the Croatian from the Spanish side initially on loan in the summer of 2018 before making the move permanent the following year. He has taken his game to new heights in recent seasons, especially since our German head coach arrived.
Discussing the midfielder, the boss admits to following his progress in his early years, when he was playing for Zinedine Zidane’s Real side after joining from Inter Milan at the age of just 21.
‘He looks like a wonderkid in training in some exercises. On Tuesday he had an outstanding training session and is a fantastic character,’ Tuchel said.
‘A lovely guy, a humble guy, and so interested in sports. He's so happy to train and deliver for the team. It's a true pleasure.
‘Even at Real Madrid, I was aware of his talent, and I felt there was a next step coming,’ he added. ‘I'm very happy that he's my player and plays a lot this season. He is crucial to us on the pitch and off the pitch in the way he behaves.'
Not for the only time during his media duties ahead of tonight's game, Tuchel was asked by a Spanish journalist if there was a Real Madrid player who would pose a special threat to his team.
'Instead of being boring and always saying 'I will not say who', one particular name I gave all the praise to is Karim Benzema,' replied Tuchel.
'Two years ago he was one of the most under-rated players in world football, but maybe not anymore, which he absolutely deserves. He plays as a number nine for Real Madrid for so many years, that speaks for itself. What he did in the last stage for them, how he carried responsibility, and the key part he plays as a captain now, is very impressive.
'You can see what can happen to the team in his absence when they played the Clasico. For sure he is a standout player and a standout personality, but it is again at this very moment unfair to Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and to all the guys who carried this team so successfully over almost a decade now.
'They are huge personalities which I am immediately a fan of, but for sure not today.'