Joe Cole explains what Mateo Kovacic has that Cesc Fabregas and Chelsea’s other midfielders lack

Joe Cole has called on Chelsea to make sure they do all that they can do to keep Mateo Kovacic once his loan move expires at the end of the season.

After three seasons of success with Real Madrid, during which time the Croatian won the Champions League three times, he opted to force a move away in search of regular first team football.

So far he has faced a battle with Ross Barkley for minutes in Maurizio Sarri’s midfield but is fast becoming a popular face among fans who enjoy watching him show his skill on the ball as well as resemblance to Eden Hazard when they are on the pitch together.

His style of play may not always directly lead to goals but according to Cole his influence on the team stretches far beyond basic statistics such as assists or chances created.

“He’s different class,” said the former Chelsea and West Ham playmaker on BT Sport. “He’s not a prolific goalscorer from midfield but when you watch him closely, what he does is drive with the ball.

“So teams are set up and straight away that’s unnerving the back four because he’s got that ability to ghost past players.

“Cesc Fabregas is a great player but Kovacic gives Chelsea what Cesc can’t do, and that is drive and take players out of the game from a central position.

“And it then allows space for your Willians and your Hazards to receive the ball at their feet. He’s vital to the way that Chelsea want to play.”

Real will not want to lose Kovacic on the cheap and the Croatian is unlikely to be short of suitors if he were to be made available to clubs on a permanent transfer in the summer.

However, Cole wants Chelsea to make sure they don’t come to regret letting the midfielder out of their grasp.

“He would like to score more goals from midfield I’m sure,” he said. “But he’s one of those players that when he’s not there, that’s when you’ll notice because he links the play from the defence to the attack so well.”

Kovacic has previously been linked with Chelsea’s London rivals Tottenham Hotspur as a long-term replacement to Mousa Dembele, another midfielder rated highly by analysts and supporters of his own club even if opposition fans can struggle to see what the fuss is about.

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