Mateo Kovacic has recommended Croatian teammate Josko Gvardiol to Chelsea behind the scenes, and stressed he hopes he’ll play alongside the defender at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues set about revamping their backline this summer and did so to great effect. Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella all arrived for fees that totalled north of £150m combined.
One target who evaded their grasp, however, was RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.
The 20-year-old is making rapid progress in the Bundesliga since leaving Chelsea’s Champions League opponents this evening – Dinamo Zagreb.
He emerged on Chelsea’s radar throughout the summer and there had even been talk of a late £77m move to Stamford Bridge.
Fabrizio Romano reported Chelsea were in ‘advanced talks’ over the move. The plan was to send Gvardiol back out on loan to Leipzig to help sweeten the deal before he’d arrive in the English capital next summer.
The move ultimately failed to materialise, though could be reignited in 2023. That is certainly a development that would please Gvardiol’s international teammate, Mateo Kovacic.
Speaking in a press conference ahead of the Zagreb clash, Kovacic was asked about the possibility of Chelsea signing Gvardiol.
Kovacic gave ringing endorsement
The 28-year-old midfielder admitted he gave a glowing endorsement when probed by Chelsea officials as to the player Gvardiol is.
What’s more, he stressed he’d love to play alongside the defender in the blue of Chelsea one day.
“At the club, they asked me about Josko, I told them all the best,” said Kovacic (via the Evening Standard).
“I don’t need to say anything about his football, they know what kind of player he is, and his character is excellent.
“I have seen in the national team how eager he is to play. He has a great career ahead of him, and I hope that one day we will play together in the club.”
Do Chelsea need Gvardiol?
With Fofana, Koulibaly and Cucurella through the door, the obvious question is do Chelsea even need another defensive recruit?
Reece James has penned a new, history-making, six-year deal and is the undisputed No 1 right wing-back. Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek and captain Cesar Azpilicueta can cover in the position, while the latter can also play at right centre-back.
For the central roles, Thomas Tuchel’s strongest trio is Fofana, Thiago Silva and Koulibaly. Trevoh Chalobah was retained despite strong loan interest, while Marc Cucurella can deputise on the left of the three.
Ben Chilwell rounds out the options at left wing-back, meaning Tuchel has eight specialist defenders covering five spots.
Ideally, a club regularly competing for honours on four fronts would have two top class players for every position.
As such, it should come as no surprise if Chelsea do pursue another defender in the next few windows.
Like Cucurella, the left-footed Gvardiol is capable of playing in the back three or at wing-back. He can also play at left-back if Tuchel plays a back four.