With Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, James Rodriguez and Isco all in situ, Real Madrid have one of the most impressive sets of midfielders in world football. Nevertheless, new signing Mateo Kovacic fancies his chances of forcing his way into a key role in the star-studded Los Blancos lineup.
The Croatian playmaker joined Real Madrid from Internazionale during the pre-season and has been used as a substitute in both of his new side’s La Liga games so far. The 21-year-old told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Harry Sherlock of Goal) that he’s delighted to be playing in the Spanish capital but is not content with being a fringe player:
Real Madrid is one of the few teams in the world you cannot say no to. In the end, the clubs found a solution that made all parties happy.
Every player dreams of playing for Madrid. It has happened to me at 21 years old, so I consider myself very lucky. I don't think a club like this base their decisions on a single performance, but perhaps playing for Inter against Madrid helped a little.
I know it will be tough to earn a starting place, but I'm sure I'll do it.
It’s easy to see why Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez targeted the Croatia international. As is obvious by the aforementioned quotes, Kovacic is hungry for success, understands he may have to wait for opportunities and has the talent to become a world-class midfielder.
As we can see here, courtesy of OptaPaolo, the midfielder possesses experience which belies his tender years:
Crucially for Real, he’s also an adaptable player. While Kovacic is at his best in an orthodox midfield position, he can play further forward as a No. 10 or a little deeper, too. He may find himself filling the latter position if injuries and suspensions tot up, as Los Blancos let three holding midfielders leave the club this summer in Sami Khedira, Lucas Silva and Asier Illarramendi.
Kovacic certainly has the skills to act as an able deputy and may even be viewed as a long-term replacement at the heart of this team to his compatriot Modric. But his Real career remains in an embryonic state, and it’ll be intriguing to see just how emphatic a case he makes to become an immovable fixture in this Los Blancos starting XI during his debut campaign.
Manchester City and Arsenal to Battle for Isco
Isco could be the subject of major interest from a pair of Premier League giants, according to Sport (h/t Aaron Flanagan of the Daily Mirror), who claim that Arsenal and Manchester City will go head-to-head to land the Spanish international.
It’s noted by Flanagan that the two clubs have already made their interest in the player known with a view to a January move. It would be a significant coup for either side if one of them can lure the attacking midfielder away, as we can see here:
Isco shone last term when he got a chance under Carlo Ancelotti, filling a variety of positions in the team with distinction. But under the tutelage of Benitez, it looks as though the former Malaga man is set to be retired to a role on the bench once again.
It would a shame to see. The Spaniard is a genuine world-class talent and an attacking midfielder whom the majority of teams in Europe would build a team around. As noted here by WhoScored.com, there are few players in the game with close control to rival that of Isco’s:
The player could have a big decision to make very soon. He can sit and wait for his chance again at the Santiago Bernabeu and, in all likelihood, make a massive impression in the team when it comes around. But ousting one of Rodriguez, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema or Cristiano Ronaldo out of that side on a permanent basis looks extraordinarily tough.
City and Arsenal would be able to hand Isco a starring role in a team that’d be challenging for major honours, which would surely represent a tantalising proposition for a player starved of regular minutes. It’s unlikely Real would sanction a sale in January, but if the situation hasn’t changed by next summer, it may be best for the club and the player to go their separate ways.