Thomas Tuchel says it is a “pure joy” to coach Mateo Kovacic after revealing the extent to which he can rely on the Chelsea midfielder.
Kovacic has played 32 times for Chelsea since Tuchel became their head coach in January. He came on as a substitute in last season’s Champions League final, which Chelsea won. This term, he has started 12 matches in all competitions so far.
The Croatia international is proving his importance in what is now his fourth season at Stamford Bridge.
However, he will be unavailable for Chelsea’s game against Newcastle at the weekend, after Tuchel initially forgot to include him on their list of injury absentees.
The German coach remembered that Kovacic has a hamstring injury when asked a question about him at his latest press conference. Nevertheless, he went on to explain how highly he thinks of the 27-year-old – and has done since his Real Madrid days.
“Now that you remind me, sorry that I forgot, we had very sad news yesterday after training that he suffers from a hamstring injury and he will be out for some weeks,” Tuchel said.
“He will be out for next week and then comes the national break where he will be out. It is a minimum of these weeks but hopefully he can be back after.
“He injured his hamstring doing a little bit too much in training. It is also my fault which describes the answer.
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“You can call Mateo at 3 o’clock at night and call him for tactical, defensive or set-piece training or just call him and he will be there with a smile and happy to do what’s needed to do.
“He is such a fantastic guy. Such a fantastic team player.
“I was a huge fan of him when he played for Real Madrid. I told him straight away, I remembered watching Clasicos with him and I saw such big potential in him.
“When I met him, he was friendly, humble and a guy with such a big heart for football and a passion for training. It is a pure joy to be his coach.”
Tuchel addresses Chelsea title chances
After nine games of the season, Chelsea sit top of the Premier League, one point ahead of Liverpool and two above Manchester City.
Liverpool and City are often seen as the teams to catch as Chelsea chase down the title, but there is a feeling that the gap is closing.
Tuchel was asked about that idea, but he wants his players to answer it on the pitch.
“Maybe for the moment but it is only nine games. We need to prove it,” he said. “Maybe we proved it in the last half of the season. We need to prove it.
“It is not enough to prove it for nine games. We need to prove it throughout the whole season. That will take all of us, all of our courage and all of our effort and discipline. It will take really all of us.
“It is like running a marathon and it is exhausting. We have four competitions and they are the best competitions.
“We are trying to close the gap and I have no problem admitting there was a gap in the last years. Liverpool and City set the standards. They are together and they created a certain mentality with their manager over the years.
“We try to close it, were confident enough to say that we want to close it from the first day of the season and this is what we are up to, what drives us and we will work on it because it takes a lot to keep the momentum going.”