We take a closer look at Mateo Kovacic’s performances for Inter over the last three Serie A seasons.
The 21-year-old Kovacic, who has been strongly linked with a move to Liverpool this summer is widely regarded as one of the hottest prospects on the continent. Which is why Inter should not be selling the Croatia international.
The Nerazzurri were awful last season, but the pieces are in place for Roberto Mancini to mould the squad in his image. The team should be built around the likes of Mauro Icardi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Juan Jesus and Samir Handanovic to provide the foundations for success and Mancini should include Kovacic in that mix.
Kovacic’s strongest asset is perhaps his dribbling ability. A low centre of a gravity benefits the unassuming midfielder, who is difficult to stop once he gets the ball at his feet. Only Juan Cuadrado (279) and Fredy Guarín (256) have completed more successful dribbles than Kovacic (219) in the last three Serie A seasons.
However, given he rarely plays a full 90 minutes, one successful dribble every 23.2 minutes of league action is a hugely impressive return and the best of all players to make at last 50 league appearances in the last three Serie A campaigns. An average of 2.6 successful dribbles per game last season ranked among the top 10 players in Serie A.
Boasting an eye of a defence splitting pass, the Croatian played more accurate through balls (11) than any other Serie A player last season, the creative side of Kovacic’s game is a highlight. It’s unsurprising that a number of Europe’s top teams have taken a liking to the 5’11” star. Only Marek Hamsik (68) and Franco Vázquez (63) played more key passes from open play than Kovacic (61) in Italy’s top tier last term, with teams keen on harnessing the inventive quality of his game.
He is not one to shirk away from the physical side of the game either, with an average of 1.6 tackles per game hinting at the impressive defensive ability in Kovacic’s repertoire. When factoring just starts, however, that figure rises to 1.9, which is a commendable figure for the former Dinamo Zagreb youngster.
Remarkably, 2014/15 was the first season that Kovacic nscored in Serie A since signing for Inter, and he ended up with five goals on the season. An average of 1.2 shots per game was also his best return in Italy’s top tier and it’s clear he has been instructed to chance his arm in front of goal more often in order to improve his all-round midfield ability.
If Inter were to cash in on him now they would be losing a player whose potential can be considered limitless. Those associated with the club are now beginning to see the best of Kovacic and they would be wise to not entertain offers for him given just how good a midfielder he can become. After Philippe Coutinho’s move to Liverpool in 2013, and the Brazilian’s subsequent success at Anfield, Inter will not want to allow another young midfielder to slip through the net.
Already considered one of the best youngsters in his position on the continent, now is the time for Mancini to harness his potential and build the squad around him if the Italian coach is to re-establish Inter as one of the dominant forces in Italian and European football.