17

Mateo Kovacic

BIOGRAPHY

Mateo Kovacic completed a permanent move to Chelsea in July 2019 following a successful season on loan at Stamford Bridge.  

The Croatian international has plenty of experience having featured regularly in Serie A (with Inter Milan), La Liga (Real Madrid), the Champions League and at international level. He played five games during Croatia’s run to the World Cup final in 2018 before heading on loan to Chelsea. 

Kovacic is a ball-playing central midfielder who thrives on quick combinations. He combines hard work with skill in possession and penetrative passing. He can also play anywhere across the midfield.

2018/19

Kovacic made his Blues debut when he came off the bench in an early-season win over Arsenal, the Croatian impressing with his clever use of the ball and technical qualities, before making his first start in our next match away at Newcastle. He quickly became an important member of the three-man midfield favoured by Maurizio Sarri, playing on the left of the trio.

Kovacic's link-up with Eden Hazard caught the eye and he supplied a fine pass to the Belgian to open the scoring against Liverpool in September. He also set up Hazard's 100th Chelsea goal at Watford on Boxing Day. 

The 25-year-old contributed significantly to our Europa League-winning campaign, starting in 10 of the 15 games, including the final in Baku, and making two further substitute appearances. He was a standout performer against Arsenal in Azerbaijan and was involved in three of the goals in our 4-1 win.

Early career

Kovacic caught the eye from a very early age, and after joining Dinamo Zagreb’s academy as a teenager, it wasn’t long before he had established himself in their first team. He scored on his senior debut aged 16 years and 198 days, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Croatian top flight in the process.

He got his first taste of elite European football during his two-and-a-half years in Dinamo’s first team, and he remains the second-youngest player to have ever scored in the Champions League after netting against Lyon at just 17.

Kovacic left Dinamo for Inter Milan in January 2013 having won a pair of league and cup doubles with the Croatian giants. His performances at such a tender age, including in the Champions League, had made him one of the hottest properties in Europe.

His first half-season at Inter was so impressive he forced his way into the starting XI and he picked up the club’s young player of the year award.

After two more seasons at the San Siro, Real Madrid came calling in the summer of 2015 and with the Nerazzurri in financial difficulty, they had little choice but to sell one of their star assets. Kovacic headed to the Spanish capital having made almost 100 appearances in Italy. He had just turned 21.

With fierce competition for places at Real Madrid, Kovacic more often than not featured off the bench during his time at the Bernabeu. Despite that, he maintained regular playing time and accumulated over 100 appearances during his three years with Real, including in the Champions League, which Real Madrid won every season Kovacic was there. Among his other honours won were a La Liga title and a Spanish Cup.

He debuted for Croatia in 2013, and along with playing his part as Croatia entered unchartered territory, he started each of their games at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.