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Thomas Tuchel discovers Chelsea undroppable against Real Madrid to ease summer transfer concern

Chelsea’s players produced one of the club’s great Champions League performances at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid last night and while it didn’t prove enough for the Blues to progress to the semi-finals, Thomas Tuchel did discover a true undroppable in his side

Mateo Kovacic celebrates with Antonio Rudiger as Chelsea almost pulled off the impossible against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals

rates with Antonio Rudiger as Chelsea almost pulled off the impossible against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-finals

It was shortly after joining Chelsea on loan in the summer of 2018 that Mateo Kovacic explained why he had to leave Real Madrid after three seasons with the La Liga giants.

“It was two years of struggling in Madrid, playing and not playing, it was difficult,” the Croatian midfielder explained. “Without the confidence, you don’t try the things you know.”

Kovacic’s first campaign at Stamford Bridge saw him job-share a role on the left of Maurizio Sarri’s midfield three with Ross Barkley.

There were flashes of the Croatian’s skill and poise on the ball, but he didn’t have a huge impact in either the attacking or defensive third.

Still, given the Blues had to serve a transfer ban in the summer of 2019, it made sense to turn Kovacic’s loan into a permanent deal.

Under Frank Lampard, Kovacic blossomed further. He made 47 appearances across all competitions and was named Chelsea’s 2019/20 Player of the Season.

It was deserved but also an indication of the inconsistency of those around the midfielder in Lampard’s side. There wasn’t an overwhelming favourite to win the honour.

Last term, Kovacic was firmly stuck behind Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in the midfield pecking order. There was even a spell under Lampard where Mason Mount and Kai Havertz were used as eights in a three-man midfield.

There was genuine debate as to how Kovacic fit in at Chelsea and whether he would quite able to live up to the potential he displayed early in his career at Dinamo Zagreb and Inter Milan.

In the tail-end of last season’s run to Champions League glory, Kovacic played a support role. Injury kept him out of the semi-final tie against Real Madrid and he featured for only ten minutes in the final against Manchester City – the Croatia international replaced Mount as Chelsea closed out the game to claim their second European Cup.

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