WHAT ARE HIS STRONGEST ATTRIBUTES?
Technically strong, he is a highly gifted Croatian international with good dribbling skills, pace and an ability to spot a pass. Wearing the No 10 shirt at Inter after Wesley Sneijder, traditionally a number reserved for vision and prominence, Kovacic is renowned for being composed on the ball. He is prone to moments of audacious individual ability. When he gets the chance.
AND HIS WEAKNESSES?
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Inconsistent. For a figure costing so much, he does not bring with him a guarantee of constant quality. Signed by Inter from Dinamo Zagreb at the outset of 2013, he didn’t scored his first goal in Serie A for Inter until September 2014. He made 80 appearances for Inter, and scored five goals in Serie A at a club that has not qualified for the Champions League in four years.
WHAT IS HIS SCORING RECORD LIKE FROM MIDFIELD?
He scored his first goal in a 7-0 win over Sassuolo at the San Siro 20 months after touching down in Milan, and scored eight goals in all competitions. Three of those came in a Europa League qualifier against Stjarnan of Iceland.
HOW MANY STARTS DID HE ENJOY AT INTER LAST SEASON?
Only 26. Was not a regular starter under Roberto Mancini, and there was no guarantee he was going to earn any more games turning out for Inter this season. According to reports, he was not even likely to start against Atalanta in their season opener in Serie A.
WHY ARE INTER SELLING HIM?
They say they have to because of UEFA financial fair play rules, but it also suits them. They paid around £7.5m to sign the player, and are now selling him on for a profit of £15m with the prospect of another £2m in bonuses. For a bloke who doesn't always start, that does not sound like a bad deal.
WHAT DOES RAFAEL BENITEZ SEE IN HIM?
At 21, he has time to develop into the player Inter liked during his teenage years. The six-year contract places an enormous amount of faith in Kovacic's ability to prosper. Madrid are buying potential, but Benitez is obviously sold on his skills. Back in April, Kovacic produced several exceptional visionary moments against Benitez's Napoli. A lovely piece of quality in flipping the ball between two feet ended with Pepe Reina being forced to make a fine save. The match ended 0-0, but perhaps Benitez felt Kovacic had won the day, genuinely touching the game with his technique.
WHERE IS HIS BEST POSITION?
He doesn't have one. Or at least didn't have one in Milan where he was deployed as a winger, forward and a passer of the ball coming from deep. In short, he was blighted by lack of starts, but also lack of matches to find his most notable position. His development appears to have been stunted at Inter. Kovacic worked under three coaches Andrea Stramaccioni, Walter Mazzarri and Mancini at Inter. Such upheaval can have a negative effect on aspiring ability.
HOW WILL HE FIT INTO MADRID'S MIDFIELD?
At the moment, it is difficult to see how he will dislodge Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez, Luca Modric or Isco, but what goes in his favour is his standing with the Los Blancos coach. He is a Benitez signing, and that alone should serve him well under a manager who obviously likes him. And at least he won't have a language problem with Modric.
WHO HAS WON OUT OF THE DEAL? INTER OR MADRID?
Looks like Inter, but then they were saying similar things when they flogged Andrea Pirlo to Milan 14 years ago. Former Inter player Luisito Suárez has highlighted the folly of that move. Drazen Brncic moved to Inter while Pirlo joined their city foes. The rest is history. Pirlo progressed to claim six Scudetti and two Champions League titles with Milan and Juventus. And the World Cup with Italy. Brncic didn't.
Milan's Andrea Pirlo with the European Cup in 2007
Image credit: Imago
"The comparison with Pirlo is appropriate," said Suarez in the Italian media. "Andrea left because the club did not have the patience to wait for him to mature, and then he became the player everyone knew he would.
Kovacic has the quality to become the new Pirlo. And don’t tell me he struggles in the defensive phase because at the same age Pirlo defended badly, but then improved in that aspect of his game.
“The lad needed team-mates at a higher level that could help him grow, but instead he found himself as a leader at 20-years-old, and (he had to) assume responsibilities that were too big so that his flaws have been magnified and his productivity disappeared.”
Dinamo Zagreb (2010-13)
Inter Milan (2013-15)
Real Madrid (2015- )
2 Croatian league titles (2011 and 2012)
2 Croatian Cups (2011 and 2012)
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