Mateo Kovacic has been on the books of Real Madrid since the summer of 2015 when he joined from Inter Milan for £22.5 million. The 23-year-old midfielder was a success during his time at Italian giants Inter and it did not come as a surprise to see Madrid splash the cash and sign him. Not only was the Croatia international going to enhance the depth in the Madrid squad, but he was also expected to push Luka Modric for a place in the starting lineup and perhaps even replace him in the long run.
To state that Kovacic has been a failure at Madrid in his two years at the Santiago Bernabeu would not be right but, at the same time, it is hard to claim that he has been a success. True, the former Dinamo Zagreb youngster has won La Liga once and the Champions League twice with Madrid but Los Blancos would have won those titles without him.
During the 2015-16 season, Kovacic was able to start eight games and made 17 appearances in La Liga for Madrid, providing two assists in the process. In 2016-17, the Croatia international made 27 La Liga appearances, (19 of which were starts), scoring one goal and providing three assists in the process. Over the past two seasons, the 23-year-old midfielder has been able to make just five starts in the Champions League, which Madrid are favourites to win this season, according to the latest football betting odds (17/4). And, while Kovacic started both legs against Madrid’s bitter rivals Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup in August, one suspects that Zidane used him so as not to rush his regular starters into the season so early.
Kovacic’s current contract with Madrid runs until June 2021 but it would make sense for him to leave the Santiago Bernabeu in the summer transfer window, even if it be on a season-long loan deal. Although the youngster is surrounded by top-quality players such as Modric, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Isco, Sergio Ramos, and Raphael Varane in the Spanish capital, he is simply not getting enough playing time. For a player of his talent and potential, if he spends another season on the substitutes’ bench, it would be a shame.
Leaving Madrid for any other club is always a step down. It would be even more so now that Los Blancos have the best squad in Europe. Having won the Champions League for the past two seasons – and reclaimed the La Liga title in 2016-17 – Madrid are at the pinnacle of club football. Zinedine Zidane is building something special at the Bernabeu and one can understand how hard it would be for Kovacic to even contemplate leaving the Bernabeu. After all, he is playing for the biggest club he probably ever will.
However, spending a season on loan at another club would not be a bad idea. Kovacic would get regular playing time, improve himself, and come back a better footballer next summer. Of course, Zidane needs all of his players to win major honours again this season but Madrid should look at the bigger picture. Kovacic has the potential to become a world-class player who could run their midfield for years but wasting another year on the bench would not help either the player or the club in the long run.