Mateo Kovacic may well have four years left on his contract at Real Madrid, but with Dani Ceballos looking increasingly likely to join the already stacked midfield at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, doubt has been cast over the Croatian’s future.
Bought from Inter Milan in the summer of 2015 for a reported fee of £26.35million, Kovacic was destined to put the pressure on midfield maestros Luka Modric and Toni Kroos but limited game-time sidelined him to a back-up role.
His performances have gone under the radar though; a stand-out player in Los Blancos’ second-string outfit, the 23-year-old has displayed versatility and skill to cover all three midfield positions in Zizou’s 4-3-3.
Kovacic is a complete midfielder with the mentality and years ahead of him to nurture into one of the world’s best. He passes admirably and more than holds his own defensively but his main asset is the speed and skill of which he dribbles with.
He completed more take-ons than any other of his Madrid teammates last season and was the only La Liga player to better the brilliance of Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta; recording an impressive 81.2% dribble success rate compared to the Spaniard’s 80.5%.
So far, Kovacic has been patient with the 12-time European champions but growing interest from the Premier League’s top six could be enough to swoop him away.
It has been reported that Tottenham Hotspur have been most keen on securing his signature, with Madrid happy to make extra funds available for a world-record move for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe.
A switch to White Hart Lane would give Mauricio Pochettino freedom to explore different formations and Kovacic, with his similarities to Mousa Dembele, would well suit the Lilywhites.
While Spurs seems the most logical, and likely, club for Kovacic, he would have no problem fitting in at any other of the English giants should an attractive offer reach the Madrid fax machine this window.
At Manchester United, Kovacic could be the solution to Jose Mourinho’s defensive midfield conundrum – sitting slightly behind Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, both of whom share the same intensity and drive as the Madrid man.
Whereas, at champions Chelsea, he could provide a more complementary partner to midfield stalwart and PFA Player of the Season N’Golo Kante, while strengthening a thin squad looking to conquer the Champions League, again.
And at Liverpool or Arsenal, Kovacic would likely walk into an advanced box-to-box position; easily adapting to Jurgen Klopp’s high energy ‘gegen-pressing’ style or offering the legs to the finesse of Granit Xhaka.
It is understood also that a wildcard move to Newcastle remains slightly viable as manager Rafael Benitez is keen to reunite with the player he plucked away from Inter Milan during his Madrid reign. Though, Kovacic would surely take a lot more persuading this time to ditch the Spanish capital for the Magpies.
In short, although Kovacic has the talent and potential to become the heir to compatriot and idol Modric at Madrid, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him – and the club – favour a move to a top English side should the right bid be made.