Thomas Tuchel has heaped praise onto Mateo Kovacic ahead of this evening’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against his former club.
“I was following his career for a long time, even when he was at Real Madrid I was aware of him, I was aware of the talent and you could see there was a next step coming,” Tuchel said.
Mateo Kovacic often goes under the radar amongst non-Chelsea fans. He’s certainly not your typical aesthetically pleasing, mobile midfielder who sprays passes and catches the eye, but he’s quietly one of the more consistent and underrated midfielders in the Premier League. Kovacic is more of a disrupter, a tempo-setter, and a player who is at times, second-to-none in pressure situations when facing his own goal.
“I am very happy that he’s my player”, Tuchel went on to say. “He’s crucial to us, not only on the pitch but off the pitch and the way he behaves, you can see that he was brought up as a team player”.
Kovacic has been a staple of Chelsea’s best side since his arrival at Stamford Bridge, claiming the club’s player of the year award in 2019/20, and it’s been much of the same since Tuchel’s arrival at the helm.
Tonight, Kovacic and Chelsea face a stern test at the Bridge, facing not just his former club, but also his fellow countryman in midfield, Luka Modric. Despite the aging trio of Kroos, Modric, and Casemiro in the Madrid midfield, Real have been rewarded with some fine performances from the veterans this season, none more so than the second leg of their previous Champions League fixture against Paris Saint-Germain with a vintage display from Modric in particular. Whoever lines up in Chelsea’s midfield this evening will have their work cut out if Madrid can bring their best display.