Chelsea and Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic have opened up about his life journey from Last to Dinamo Zagreb.
Mateo Kovacic joined Chelsea in 2018 on an initial one-year season loan from Real Madrid. after impressive an season, Chelsea signed Mateo Kovacic on a permanent deal for five years. The Croatian midfielder grew more influential under former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard.
The 28-year-old Croatian midfielder continued his impressive season under new manager Thomas Tuchel, helping Chelsea win the Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup.
Kovacic won Chelsea’s goal of the season with his stunning volley against Liverpool in the Premier League. Mateo Kovacic has scored 4 goals and provided 13 assists in 183 appearances for Chelsea.
What was said?
In an exclusive interview with Chelsea’s official website, the Croatian midfielder said: “My beginnings were very cheerful and playful. From a young age, my only goal was to play football. When I was four to five years old, my mum took me to my first training session and then everyone told her that I was still too young and that I shouldn’t start playing yet, but in the end, they let me play because we were very persistent.
“I was really young, but I realized when I was five or six years old I was fast, and I had something the other children didn’t. I always played one against three in kindergarten and I was quite good. Then, as the years passed, I realized I had talent, but my father always said that without work talent is nothing. So I worked hard every day to be where I am now.
“I played with boys who were two or three years older than me. It just all revolved around football and around my family, who were my biggest support. I remember when I moved from LASK to Dinamo Zagreb. I was very young, only 12 years old. I started playing for Dinamo and thanks to football I made many friends.
“It is normal in football and life to have both good and bad moments. When I was 14, I broke my leg and certainly, my family suffered a lot because of it. My dad left his job in Austria, where we lived well, and moved to Croatia.
“It was also a risk, but he had faith that I could achieve great things at Dinamo, and in the end he was right. My dad has always been my biggest support, as has my whole family. They sacrificed a lot for me and I tried to repay them in another way, to give my best, be a good son to them, and always have a great relationship with my family. I never missed anything, and like you said, in some crucial moments, family members become even more connected to each other, so a lot of good things happened to us in those bad moments as well.”
Mateo Kovacic shared the first time he met his idol and later national teammate Luka Modric.
The Chelsea midfielder added: “One of those was meeting Luka Modric. I’ve been watching Luka’s matches since I was about ten, that’s when I started to understand football better. I had the opportunity to meet him twice. The first time I was nine or ten years old, and the second time I was about 14 years old when Tottenham Hotspur signed him.
“That’s when they said that it would be nice to take a picture with him because one day he will be my teammate, and that came true. We get along wonderfully and we will continue to be that way throughout our lives. I am glad to have met such a phenomenal person. Not only when it comes to what kind of player he is, we all know that, but as a person he is great, he is very calm and I appreciate him. He is always down-to-earth, never conceited, he is an example to all us younger players and his career needs to be an example to us.
“After I broke my leg, I came back very strong, and when I was 16 I went to the first team. That was my first step in professional football. My senior debut for Dinamo Zagreb was really special. It was a long time ago now! I scored in this game. It was a day to remember. My father was the happiest person because he suffered a lot when I was injured, and this goal was for him. I think he is now the proudest dad in the world.
“I have always loved football and loved playing it. I believed in myself. I would also like to say thank you to Dinamo, they gave me the opportunity. It wasn’t easy to deal with a 16-year-old boy because I wasn’t tactically nor mentally ready for that level, and they forgave my bad sides and pushed me to become better. As for me, I did everything I could. I probably wasn’t 100 percent ready at that time, but Dinamo believed in me and it paid off in the end for both me and them.”
Mateo Kovacic and his teammate will return for pre-season on Saturday,2 July.