Chelsea’s recent performances have left a lot to be desired, but Simon Phillips believes Mateo Kovačić has been the club’s shining light.
There are very few positives to take from Chelsea’s performances of late – and even less standout players on show – but off the back of another poor result at Bournemouth this weekend, Blues midfielder Mateo Kovačić firmly carries a shining light of positivity.
In a time where Frank Lampard and his Chelsea players are battling through a storm, it is Kovačić who is holding the umbrella for them all. Chelsea turned his loan move into a permanent one in the summer, paying just £40m to Real Madrid for his services. Almost daylight robbery.
But even then, some Chelsea fans were against signing him and doubted his ability.
While he didn’t exactly light up his first season under Maurizio Sarri, I could see what a silky smooth player he was and I celebrated the signing. Many others felt the same way, and this season we are reaping the rewards.
For me, Kovačić is currently Chelsea’s best player. I don’t think that can even come under any doubt. He’s gone from being underrated to probably the first name on the team sheet. He is perfect for this team and has a great mentality. I have felt sorry for him in recent matches as he’s the only player who’s not deserved to be on the losing side.
Kovačić is a unique player; the way he glides through players like a knife cutting through butter really is something to behold.
He moves like a winger, like the familiar run of Eden Hazard when he’s in full flow. It’s beautiful to watch.
This is the reason why he’s even better at resisting the high press than Jorginho. Kovačić has the pace and ability to dribble out of danger, and he can often take two or three players out of the game immediately by doing so.
Jorginho lacks pace, so he relies on his forward-thinking and good passing ability. And that’s fine when other players are in the right position to help him play out, but they’re often not.
This is why sometimes you need to run your way out of trouble – something Kovačić does like no other player, at least, not one that plays in his position. He moves like a winger, like the familiar run of Eden Hazard when he’s in full flow. It’s beautiful to watch.
He’s always better in a deeper role, so I can see him adopting that a lot more in the next couple of seasons.
He’s gone from being underrated to probably the first name on the team sheet.
The biggest thing for me, though, is that I can see him developing into a Chelsea leader, something we’ve truly lacked. He has a lot of desire and fight about him. He’s a strong character and a strong player, which is vital in a team that, at the moment, often looks weak-minded and gutless.
Lampard would be wise to build his midfield around Kovačić and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the next few years, two players who can help take Chelsea to a new level and become a formidable double act in the midfield for many years to come.