Hold on to your butts, everyone — it sounds as though Mateo Kovacic is agitating for a move away from Real Madrid. The Croatian central midfielder, currently with his national team in Russia for the World Cup, has given an interview with Spanish newspaper MARCA where he said that he wants to play more and that the best thing for him is to leave Real Madrid for another club.
“I would like to play more at Real Madrid because I love football and I love being on the pitch. I know that it’s difficult to be a starter at Real Madrid, especially when I arrived at a really young age.
”I understand the situation, but because of that I believe the best thing for me would be to go to another club where I’d have the opportunity to play regularly as a starter. I think I can have this opportunity and it’s one I want right now.
“I think that all of the players at Real Madrid are important. The problem is that it’s difficult to get consistency when you’re a young player. Without that consistency I will never be able to show my potential. Of course I am not happy when I don’t play.
”I have really enjoyed these three years in Madrid, alongside some incredible teammates and winning trophies, but I haven’t been completely happy because my contribution to all of this hasn’t been complete and this is something I want to change.”
On a personal note, I have been a fan of Mateo Kovacic since Luka Modric left Spurs and Kovacic he was still playing for Dinamo Zagreb. A progressive central midfielder, he’s been high on the wish-lists of Tottenham fans both on this blog and elsewhere for a very long time. Unfortunately, the “next Luka Modric” has been stuck behind the ACTUAL Luka Modric for as long as he’s been at Madrid — he played only 1800 minutes in all competitions last season, tallying three assists.
Kovacic is an ideal replacement for Mousa Dembele. You might say he’s probably THE most ideal replacement for the Belgian that Spurs could possibly get. He’s incredibly press-resistant, and has a very strong xGBuildup (0.67) and xGChain (0.72) ratings, which show his ability to contribute to the attacking buildup. He reportedly has a €50m release clause in his Madrid contract, which is within Spurs’ budget, and he’s only on about £42k/week in wages.
There are a couple of ways that you can look at Kovacic’s comments. The first way is at face value — he’s 24 years old, meaning he’s in arguably his peak years, so it’s no wonder he wants to play, and play now. He probably understands that he’s still stuck in limbo as long as Modric is still playing hockey assists in the Bernabeu. Tottenham would actually be an ideal club for him — they’re a Champions League club that can offer him high level football in a top league, and he fills a position of need.
But there’s another way that Kovacic’s comments can be read, and that’s as a call for Real Madrid to commit to him. As a footballer, you don’t usually go to the press with your grievances unless you are willing to negotiate with the club to get something that you want. What Kovacic wants is to play, and this could be the opening salvo in a battle that could see him eventually sign a new and improved contract that keeps him at Madrid.
“I don’t know the new coach and I’ve never spoken to him, but I now that we need to talk about my future. I have been at Real Madrid for three years and haven’t played too much, something which has affected my status with the national team.
”This is something I’m not happy about. That’s why the best thing would be to change team.
”Real Madrid are an extraordinary team with great players and maybe I am too young to contribute at 100 percent, I don’t know.”
Mateo Kovacic is a very good young player who would be perfect for Spurs, but there are no guarantees here. Madrid is on record in saying they don’t want Kovacic to go. We haven’t heard very much in actual links that suggest that Spurs are interested in his services, apart from the usual “Spurs are tracking him” kind of headlines. Tottenham would also no doubt be in competition with a host of other clubs that could offer more in the way of wages.
However if Kovacic is serious about leaving, Spurs would be a very good place for him. He’d almost assuredly get a starting role next season in a tactical system where he could excel, plus a healthy bump in wages compared to where he is now. He’s more likely to start at Tottenham than he would be at a club like Liverpool, Chelsea, or United, and Arsenal doesn’t have Champions League.
If I’m Daniel Levy, I’m on the phone to Kovacic’s agent right now to gauge what their end game is here. If that is a move away from Real Madrid, he should shoot immediately to the top of Spurs’ transfer queue the minute Croatia’s World Cup journey is over.