Mateo Kovačić

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Mateo Kovačić
Mateo Kovacic vs. Portugal, 10th June 2013-2.jpg
Kovačić with Croatia in June 2013
Personal information
Full name Mateo Kovačić[1]
Date of birth (1994-05-06) 6 May 1994 (age 20)
Place of birth Linz, Austria
Height 1.81 m (5 ft 11 12 in)[2]
Playing position Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Internazionale
Number 10
Youth career
2000–2007 LASK Linz
2007–2010 Dinamo Zagreb
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2010–2013 Dinamo Zagreb 43 (7)
2013– Internazionale 45 (0)
National team
2008 Croatia U14 2 (1)
2008 Croatia U15 2 (0)
2009–2011 Croatia U17 15 (0)
2011–2012 Croatia U19 2 (0)
2011– Croatia U21 5 (0)
2013– Croatia 12 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 18 May 2014.

† Appearances (Goals).

‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 6 June 2014

Mateo Kovačić (born 6 May 1994) is a Croatian footballer who plays as a midfielder for Serie A club Internazionale and the Croatian national team. Kovačić is usually deployed as a central midfielder (mezz'ala) or deep-lying playmaker (regista) for Internazionale, but he is considered to be a versatile midfielder, having played in different positions and can adapt to playing either wide on the left or as a trequartista if required.[3][4] He started his professional career with Dinamo Zagreb at the age of 16, with whom he won two consecutive league titles, before joining Internazionale in 2013.

Club career[edit]

Youth career[edit]

Born in Linz, Austria, to Bosnian Croat parents who had moved there from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kovačić began playing at an early age at the local LASK Linz's academy.[5] In 2007, when Kovačić was 13, he was spotted by scouts from several prominent European clubs, including Ajax, Internazionale, Juventus, and Bayern Munich, but his family opted to move to Zagreb instead, where he joined Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb.[5][6] Kovačić suffered a serious injury in 2009 in which his leg was broken, but he returned to the pitch after a lengthy recovery on 31 May 2010, appearing in the last match of the Croatian under-17 academy league, a 5–0 win against RNK Split under-17s.[7]

Dinamo Zagreb[edit]

Kovačić started training with the club's senior squad under manager, Vahid Halilhodžić, four months later, on 6 October 2010,[8] but continued to appear for the club in academy league matches during October. Later that month, it was reported by the local sports daily, Sportske novosti, that Arsenal's chief scout, Steve Rowley, had arrived in Zagreb to watch him perform in under-17 matches against Cibalia and NK Zagreb.[9]

Kovačić eventually had his professional league debut in the 2010–11 Prva HNL away match against Hrvatski Dragovoljac on 20 November 2010, in which he scored Dinamo's fourth goal in their 6–0 win.[10] This made him the youngest goalscorer in the history of the league, at the age of 16 years and 198 days, breaking the record set only a week earlier by Dino Špehar who had scored for NK Osijek at the age of 16 years and 278 days on 13 November 2010.[11][12] In his first senior season with Dinamo Zagreb he managed to appear in 7 matches, making a contribution in winning the league title.

In the 2011–12 season, Kovačić rapidly established himself as a first team regular. He played mainly in the position of left midfielder in 4–2–3–1 system. In the beginning of the season, he helped the team reach the Group Stage of the season's Champions League for the first time in 12 years. Being only 17 years old, he appeared in the starting lineup of Dinamo's first group match against Real Madrid. He finished his first European season with Dinamo by scoring a goal against Olympique Lyonnais in the last game of the Group Stage in Zagreb and thus became the second youngest ever scorer in the Champions League. In the domestic league, he was a regular starter, appearing in 25 league matches and scoring five goals in the process. During a league match against NK Lučko, he became the youngest player to wear the captain's armband in Dinamo's history, taking the captaincy from Leandro Cufre.[13] It was another successful season for him in domestic competitions as he appeared in 32 domestic league and cup matches during that season, helping Dinamo to win their seventh consecutive league title. He also scored in the Croatian Cup final against NK Osijek on Maksimir Stadium. In December 2011, he was named Croatian Football Hope of the Year.[14]

In the beginning of 2012–13 season, he suffered a metatarsal bone injury that caused him to miss several games on the club's qualifying road to another Champions League. He returned just in time to play in Dinamo's first Champions League game against FC Porto. Kovačić played in all six Dinamo Zagreb's matches in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League Group Stage, against Porto, Paris Saint-Germain, and Dynamo Kyiv. He continued to impress with his mature performances at a young age during the first half of the season. In October 2012, he was nominated for Golden Boy, an award given by sports journalists to a young player from Europe perceived to have been the most impressive during a season.[15] During the season's winter break, Dinamo's board threw away the speculations about Kovačić leaving the club in the near future by saying they are building a new team around him and another rising star, Alen Halilović.[16] On 30 January 2013, however, the media, surprisingly, revealed that Kovačić was sold to Inter Milan of the Italian Serie A. During his time with Dinamo, Kovačić won two domestic league titles and two Croatian Cup titles, appearing in a total of 73 official matches, including 12 appearances in the Champions League.

Internazionale[edit]

On 31 January 2013, Kovačić agreed to a transfer to Internazionale. It was revealed that the deal was worth €15 million in total, with €13 million paid immediately and €2 million when and if Inter qualifies for the UEFA Champions League.[17] Upon his arrival, Kovačić was given the number 10 shirt, previously worn by Wesley Sneijder.[18]

2012–13 season[edit]

Kovačić made his debut for Inter three days later, on 3 February, coming on as a half-time substitute in a Serie A match against Siena.[19] Although he was announced in the starting 11 for the next Serie A match against Chievo, he missed the game due to a minor muscle injury.[20] On 14 February, Kovačić made his European debut before the home crowd at San Siro in Europa League match against CFR Cluj. He provided the winning assist for Rodrigo Palacio, who made it 2–0 for Internazionale. He impressed the crowd with his performance, and was given standing ovations while being substituted off in the 89th minute.[21] He also played full 90 minutes in the 3–0 away win against CFR Cluj, as Inter proceeded to the next round of the 2012–13 UEFA Europa League.

Kovačić made his first domestic league start for Inter in the next round of Serie A in a 1–4 away loss against Fiorentina. In the Europa League Round of 16, Inter was drawn to play against Tottenham Hotspur. After a 3–0 loss in London, Inter needed a 4–0 win in Milan to proceed to the next round. The game ended in a 4–1 win for Inter after the match went into extra-time, with Kovačić playing as a starter. He impressed with his composure and playmaking ability, once again receiving ovations by the fans.[22][23] Inter coach, Andrea Stramaccioni, hailed his performances on several occasions, describing him as a "star for the future."[24]

On 30 March, Kovačić was a starter in his first Derby d'Italia against Juventus at San Siro. The derby ended in a 1–2 win for Juventus, with Kovačić starting the action that resulted in Rodrigo Palacio's 1–1 equalizer.[25] Kovačić was a starter in Inter's next Serie A match, a 0–2 away win against Sampdoria, as well as in their surprising 3–4 loss to Atalanta at San Siro, where he provided an assist for Ricky Álvarez's goal.[26] By the end of the second half of the season, he was a starter in all of the club's Serie A fixtures, as Inter finished in disappointing ninth place on the Serie A table. In May, he was given the "Gentleman Revelation of the Year" award, awarded by Internazionale fans.

2013–14 season[edit]

Kovačić missed most of the pre-season training with the squad due to series of small injuries,[27][28] and made his comeback just few days before the first official match of the new season, a Coppa Italia match against Cittadella at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.[29] During the pre-season interviews, new Inter coach, Walter Mazzarri, alluded that Kovačić will be given a new role on the pitch, a role similar to that of Marek Hamšík had in Napoli.[30] During the first half of the season, Kovačić played regularly although struggling with adjusting to the new tactical role.[31] Kovačić made his first assist of the season in the match against AS Livorno, when he delivered an assist for Yuto Nagatomo.[32] On May 10, at Javier Zanetti's last competitive match at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Kovačić made three assists in 4–1 victory over Lazio.[33]

International career[edit]

Kovačić with the national team in June 2013.

Kovačić appeared for the Croatian national team at various youth levels, debuting in May 2008 in an under-14 friendly match against Slovakia.[34] Since 2011, he was a regular member of the Croatia under-19 and under-21 teams. In August 2012, Kovačić received his first competitive call-up for the Croatian senior team match against Switzerland, but did not play because of injury.[35] Subsequently, he received a call up for 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification matches in March 2013. He made his senior debut in a qualification match against Serbia on 22 March 2013, playing as a central midfielder alongside Luka Modrić, instead of a regular team starter, Ognjen Vukojević.[36] Four days later, he played against Wales at Liberty Stadium, coming on as a second half substitute in a 1–2 win. His third match of the campaign came in June, when Croatia faced Scotland in Zagreb and suffered a frustrating defeat as they were unable to score despite a string of good chances.[37] By the end of the qualifiers, Kovačić made two more competitive appearances for Croatia, as Croatia scraped into the FIFA World Cup play-offs having taken only one point from their last four qualifiers. Although he didn't participate in the scoreless first leg of the play-off against Iceland in Reykjavík, Kovačić started the second and decisive leg between the two national teams in Zagreb, making an assist for the team's second goal as they reached the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals 2–0 on aggregate.[38]

On 2 June 2014, Kovačić was confirmed as a member of Croatia's 2014 FIFA World Cup squad.[39] He was in Croatia's starting team for the opening game of the tournament, a 3–1 defeat to World Cup hosts Brazil at the Arena Corinthians, São Paulo.[40]

Style of play[edit]

In training with the national team in March 2013.

Kovačić has been described as a great technician with excellent dribbling abilities.[41][42][43] He is considered to be a versatile midfielder, having played in different midfield positions. He started off as an attacking midfielder at Dinamo Zagreb, but he transformed his game at Internazionale where he was deployed as a regista or a deep-lying playmaker while being coached by Andrea Stramaccioni.[42] One of his trademarks is dropping deep to receive the ball and then drive forward, often performing his slalom runs.[42] Under the coach, Walter Mazzarri, he was often used in a more advanced position.

The Croatia under-17 manager, Martin Novoselac, reportedly said of Kovačić, "I haven't seen a youngster with so much talent since the days of Robert Prosinečki," referring to his fast development and talent.[5][8] Kovačić revealed that precisely Prosinečki is the player he admired the most while growing up.[44] His compatriot, Zvonimir Boban, who played for Milan for over a decade, in an interview with Sky Italia (in 2013) said, "He has talents that could make him even better than me, he is an incredibly serious professional for someone his age. Kovačić is a complete player. He is not a born regista but he is playing there now. He is a complete talent that can still grow — he has incredible potential."[45] Italian manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, described him as "a mixture of Kaká and Clarence Seedorf", because of his style of play and technical characteristics.[46] Long standing Internazionale captain, Javier Zanetti, stated that, with the exception of Ronaldo who had arrived to Inter when he was 21, Kovačić is the most promising youngster he’s seen in his 19 years at the club.[47]

Career statistics[edit]

As of 18 May 2014[48]
Team Season Domestic
League
Domestic
Cup
European
Competition
Total
Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists Apps Goals Assists
Dinamo Zagreb[49] 2010–11 7 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 9 1 0
2011–12 25 5 6 7 1 0 12 1 0 44 7 6
2012–13 11 1 4 1 0 0 8 0 0 20 1 4
Total 43 7 10 10 1 0 20 1 0 73 9 10
Internazionale 2012–13 13 0 1 1 0 0 4 0 1 18 0 2
2013–14 32 0 4 3 0 0 35 0 4
2014–15 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 45 0 5 4 0 0 4 0 1 53 0 6
Career totals 88 7 15 14 1 0 24 1 1 126 9 16

Honours[edit]

Club[edit]

Dinamo Zagreb

Individual[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil: List of Players" (PDF). FIFA. 11 June 2014. p. 12. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.inter.it/en/squadra/G0918
  3. ^ "Who Is Inter New Boy Mateo Kovacic?". forzaitalianfootball.com. 3 February 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "Ecco il regista per Strama". Gazzetta dello Sport. January 30, 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  5. ^ a b c Židak, Tomislav. "Meteor Kovačić: Svi su ludi za dječakom koji je već sa 13 igrao zrelo kao nekad Maradona". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Cigoj, Mark (2 February 2013). "Cijela istina o Mateu Kovačiću". Jutarnji list (in Croatian). Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  7. ^ Rupnik, Borna (31 May 2010). "Kadeti Dinama za naslov prestigli Hajduk". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Mateo Kovačić od danas trenira sa seniorima Dinama: Plaši me nadimak Hrvatski Messi". Sportske novosti (in Croatian). 6 October 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  9. ^ "Arsenal došao po Matea Kovačića, Dinamo našao novo čudo od djeteta - Miralema Ramića". Sportske novosti (in Croatian). 29 October 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Rupnik, Borna (20 November 2010). "I Kovačić strijelac u Dinamovoj šestici". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "Mateo Kovačić najmlađi je strijelac Prve HNL" (in Croatian). TPortal. 20 November 2010. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Plavčić, Mario (13 November 2010). "Špehar spasio bijelo-plave". Sportnet.hr (in Croatian). Retrieved 22 November 2010. 
  13. ^ "Kvačić najmlađi kapetan u Dnamovoj povijesti". tportal.hr. 2011-08-27. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  14. ^ "Kovačiću trofej Nada godine: Liga prvaka je bila uživancija". 24 sata. Retrieved 31 December 2011. 
  15. ^ "Mateo Kovačić u konkurenciji za nagradu "Golden boy 2012."". 2012-10-30. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "Kovačića i Halilovića nećemo prodati!". index.hr. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  17. ^ "Mamić: Predsjednik Arsenala me uvrijedio ponudom za Kovačića i Vrsaljka" (in Croatian). Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  18. ^ "Kovačićev prvi da u Interu" (in Croatian). Retrieved 1 February 2013. 
  19. ^ "Debi Kovačića u porazu Intera: Ima karizmu, zaslužuje broj 10" (in Croatian). 24sata.hr. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  20. ^ "Kovacic injured-misses Chievo game". 10 February 2013. Sky Calcio. 
  21. ^ "Brace for Palacio Terrific Kovacic, but Milito stretchered off". Gazzetta dello Sport. 15 February 2013. 
  22. ^ "Inter pao u produžecima, Mateu Kovačiću ovacije". Večernji list (in Croatian). 14 March 2013. 
  23. ^ "Cassano fuoriclasse, Kovacic talento puro, Adebayor fortunato. Le pagelle di Inter-Tottenham!" (in Italian). parliamodicalcio.it. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  24. ^ Mondal, Subhankar. "Inter Milan coach Andrea Stramaccioni hails Mateo Kovacic". Sportsmole.co.uk. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  25. ^ "Inter-Juve. Con Kovacic e Pirlo, precisione al potere". Gazzetta Dello Sport (in Italian). 31 March 2013. 
  26. ^ "Rocchi, Alvarez e Kovacic, eroi di una non favola." (in Italian). parliamodicalcio.it. Retrieved 12 April 2013. 
  27. ^ La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Kovacic to miss another 10 days, out against Hamburg and Chelsea". fedenerazzurra.com. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  28. ^ "Kovacic out seven days, will miss first friendly match". fedenerazzurra.com. 
  29. ^ La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Kovacic ready to return versus Cittadella". fedenerazzurra.com. 
  30. ^ "Mazzarri: "Non vendo fumo, Kovacic alla Hamsik"" (in Italian). Eurosport. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  31. ^ Novastadio. "Mazzola: "Kovacic is still not ready"". fedenerazzurra.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  32. ^ Sky Italia. "Zanetti was the main event but everyone forgot about Kovacic". fedenerazzurra.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  33. ^ "Inter 4-1 Lazio". inter.it. Retrieved 13 May 2014. 
  34. ^ "Statistike - Nastupi: Mateo Kovačić" (in Croatian). Croatian Football Federation. Retrieved 20 November 2010. 
  35. ^ "Štimac pozvao Kovačića" (in Croatian). 2012-07-30. Retrieved 31 January 2013. 
  36. ^ "Štimac: "Odluku o Kovačiću 'prelomio' sam sinoć, odigrao je za desetku"" (in Croatian). Sportnet.hr. Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  37. ^ "Croatia vs Scotland Report". www.goal.com. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  38. ^ "Ten-man Croatia reached the 2014 World Cup finals". BBC Sport. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  39. ^ "Croatia World Cup 2014 squad". The Telegraph. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 
  40. ^ "Brazil 3-1 Croatia". BBC. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  41. ^ "Kovacic compared with Baggio". football-italia.net. February 1, 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-17. 
  42. ^ a b c Mehrotra, Aakriti. "Mateo Kovacic: Scout Report | Inter’s creative midfield talent". Outside of the Boot. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  43. ^ "Stats Show Mateo Kovacic As One Of Europe’s Best Dribblers". interfanclub.com. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  44. ^ "Kovačić otkrio Talijanima koga je 'snimao'" (in Croatian). Tportal.hr. February 8, 2013. Retrieved 05/12/2013. 
  45. ^ "Inter snap up Kovacic and Kuzmanovic". ESPN. January 31, 2013. Retrieved 03/02/2013. 
  46. ^ "'Kovacic is a mix of Kaka and Seedorf' - Trapattoni". Goal.com. November 24, 2013. Retrieved 5 December 2013. 
  47. ^ "Face to face: Javier Zanetti". WorldSoccer. Retrieved 1 February 2014. 
  48. ^ "Mateo Kovacic". WhoScored.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  49. ^ "Mateo Kovačić - stats" (in Croatian). hrsport.net. Retrieved 01/02/2013. 

External links[edit]