Is Mateo Kovacic Chelsea's James Rodriguez?
Real Madrid's two most promising players are on loan. James Rodriguez is with Bayern Munich, Mateo Kovacic Chelsea.After tasting the joy of regular minutes at a top club, neither may wish to return.
Rodriguez became an integral part of die Roten, pulling the strings along the way to a sixth consecutive Bundesliga title in 2017/18. His efficacy in the final third included seven goals, eleven assists and a 90% passing accuracy in league play. It was far more thrilling than watching from the dugout while Isco, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos had all the fun at the Santiago Bernabeu.
James' loan deal ends in June but includes an option to buy the player for an additional £36 million. Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has stated the club will likely avail themselves of the option at the appropriate time. Who wouldn't? Rodriguez' work for both Bayern and Colombia this past season would command a much higher fee than the loan option guarantees. Real Madrid President Fiorentino Perez must be biting his nails, wishing there was something he could do.
Deja vu for Kovacic?
Although James fought for more than a season to leave the Spanish capital, Kovacic's situation is similar. His request to go elsewhere for more playing time was granted, this time in the form of a season-long loan, rather than two, with no option to buy. That will make it more difficult for Chelsea to acquire his services outright although more performances like the Croation's cameo against Arsenal will convince them to try.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri gave Kovacic his debut versus Arsenal, replacing Ross Barkley around the hour mark. Mateo's 30 minutes demonstrated his suitability to Sarri's style. He can dribble past opponents, break up an opponent's attack with a well-timed tackle and unlock defences with an incisive pass.
Kovacic made excellent use of his time. Constantly demanding the ball, he took 54 touches in his half-hour, completing 42 of 43 passes attempted. His performance warranted a starting role. In tandem with Eden Hazard, he slowed Arsenal down after they had fought back from 2-0 down to level terms. his distribution put the Gunners back on their heels, allowing Marcos Alonso to find a late winner. Sarri appreciated the Croatian's good work.
"I like him very much. I hope he will remain here in the future.''
A permanent move to London makes more sense for Kovacic. Limited to 37 Liga starts over three seasons at the Bernabeu, his talent cries out for more opportunity. He can play that often in a single campaign with Chelsea. At 24, school is out; it's time to go to work. The budding star can help Chelsea challenge for the title alongside N'Golo Kante and Jorginho in the midfield.
Such an arrangement benefits both player and club. Kovacic can take his game to the next Level. Chelsea's midfield will rival any in the Premier League, including Manchester City's. The question is whether Florentino Perez is willing to part with a second world-class playmaker at any price?