Real Madrid recently completed a deal to sign coveted Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic this summer for around €30M, with manager Rafael Benitez bolstering his midfield options to slowly remove the deadwood in the team. His arrival is likely to see the likes of Asier Illarramendi and Casemiro out of the team on a permanent basis, while leaving time for the club to develop one of the brightest young talents in the world.
Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini admitted that the sale of Kovacic was motivated purely on financial fair play regulations, with the young midfielder having previously been a regular in the Serie A side, making 97 appearances in his two-and-a-half years. During his time in Italy, Kovacic showed himself to be a brilliant box-to-box midfielder capable of performing multiple tasks on the pitch with consummate ease.
“I want to thank the club. I am at the biggest club in the world, and that means something special. I expect a lot of myself and all the team. I am most comfortable in position as defensive midfielder, but it will be the coach who decides where I play. Madrid is the biggest club in the world. I had no doubts (about the move). I am very happy to be here,” he said following the switch to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid have stiff competition for places, with the likes of James Rodriguez, Luka Modric, Isco and Toni Kroos all likely to be ahead of Kovacic in the pecking order initially. The young midfielder will provide the side with a different threat to his compatriots, however, with his brilliant ability to bring the ball from defence into the attack.
He made 91 successful dribbles in the Serie A last season, while creating 62 chances. Kovacic also showed real defensive capabilities too, averaging a tackle or interception every 32 minutes. The Croatian is also proficient at ball retention, with only Toni Kroos making more short passes than the Real new-boy in 2014/15. Club president Florentino Perez has been full of praise for Kovacic as a result.
“We have a magnificent squad and a great coaching team to set out to achieve our ambitions this season, but all the world knows that not conforming is one of our characteristics. Real Madrid does not tire in looking for players with talent who want to wear our badge. (Kovacic) is a young player, but with experience. He has a lot of talent and for sure will help us to be better,” he said.
Mateo Kovacic certainly faces a task to force his way into the Real Madrid first-team next season, but he certainly has the quality to be a key addition to a strong lineup. Given how much he’s already impressed on the European stage at such a young age, it perhaps won’t be long before the 21-year-old is commanding a starting place.