“He has the potential to become better than me”, was once how Mateo Kovacic was described by Croatian football legend Zvonimir Boban.
However, this doesn’t appear to be the way he is viewed by Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan, who has opted to start the talented 20-year-old just twice in the club’s last nine matches.
Kovacic can do a bit of everything; he can thread passes in tight spaces, he has quick feet to wriggle free from pressure, he can score goals, he can dictate matches from a deeper midfield role or he can operate as a playmaker closer to the strikers.
Jordan Henderson is widely regarded as Liverpool’s replacement for Steven Gerrard in the sense he will be the club’s next captain and his energy in midfield will drive the team forward.
However, Kovacic arguably has even greater potential to take over from Liverpool’s current talismanic skipper and should be recruited to add even more depth to a squad of midfielders that already includes Lucas, Joe Allen and Emre Can.
The young Croatian only extended his contract at Inter until 2019 earlier this year, but this was before he became a lesser feature of the first team. From early October, Kovacic had started 13 of 16 matches for the Nerazzurri.
He would be a perfect launch pad for Brendan Rodgers’ preferred fast-paced counter attacking style and his plight does seem reminiscent of a current Anfield magician flourishing under Rodgers after a difficult spell at Inter.
Before the opening of the January transfer window of 2013, Philippe Coutinho had started just three of Inter’s last nine fixtures.
He was clearly a talent, but Inter never gave him regular games. A lack of match fitness was blamed, while it was arguably tough for him to fit into the tactics of then manager Andrea Stramaccioni.
Inter’s loss was Liverpool’s game and £8.5 million now looks a snip for a player that is still fulfilling untapped potential at the age of 22.
Coutinho is not the first youngster Inter have been proven to have wrongly let go prematurely, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf and Mattia Destro are others that instantly spring to mind.
Kovacic is now another that could move on for a bargain fee in the summer if he is deemed surplus to Mancini’s requirements. Liverpool should certainly be involved in any auction, after all they have a great track record for swooping on 20-year-olds from Inter Milan.
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