Mateo Kovačić has recently been linked with a move to Manchester United, but we’re here to take a look at how this transfer would actually influence things at United. To start, let’s talk about the player himself.
Kovačić has been hailed to be the next great thing in Croatian football and the heir to Luka Modrić’s throne. Kovačić boasts an impressive passing ability, being able to play accurate through balls and create a number of chances, as well as dribble to create space very well. Being only 24 years old also gives these strengths time to mature and become even better. On the defensive side, Kovačić is a clean tackler and intercepts the ball well and often. Although he tends to thrive more in an advanced position on the pitch, he truly is becoming a great box-to-box midfielder, similar to Modrić.
Kovačić’s weaknesses are few and, for some, can be spun into positives as well. However, the two glaring weaknesses are his physique and his delay on the ball. Kovačić is 5’10” and is not a strong, physical presence in the midfield. Because of his size, he tends to get fouled often and loses most of his aerial duels. The second weakness comes from his time on the ball. Kovačić is known to hold onto the ball too long, which can kill momentum when his team is moving forward or can simply allow defenses to adjust to the ball. While holding possession can be seen as a positive at times, his confidence in decision making will need to increase if he is going to become a world class player.
Does United need a player like this?
This is the big question with a player like Kovačić. United are in a tricky situation because they obviously need to bolster the midfield, but should the bolstering come from players with potential or finished products? While Kovačić is likely the former, he may not be adding any quality to the likely starting midfield trio of Fred, Matić, and Pogba. Kovačić, in years to come, can develop into a top midfield prospect, but as of now, he may not be adding anything but depth to the United midfield.
However, depth is also something that United need. With the likely starters, again, being Fred, Matić, and Pogba, that leaves the likes of Fellaini and Herrera to fill in for any of them. In this regard, having a talent like Kovačić would help the United midfield be able to compete on all domestic and European fronts.
The Final Rating
Overall, this transfer would get a 7 out of 10 for me. If the transfer for Kovačić actually happened, I think it would be a good transfer, but nothing earth shattering. Although he is not a finished product, he is still a very good player who could help United in many ways. Although José Mourinho may disagree, I would choose Kovačić over Herrera or Fellaini to replace any of the midfield three. He has an ability to play a more advanced role, but also has the vision and patience needed to play a more deep lying role as well. However, if United are going to compete for a Premier League trophy again next season, they need more finished products, not more projects. Kovačić is welcomed at United, but he cannot be the answer to the problems.