Chelsea keen on Kovacic, who wants out of Real

Mateo Kovacic, 24, cites the lack of first-team opportunities for his wanting to leave Real Madrid. But the European champions do not want to sell the midfielder who they see as a possible successor to the 32-year-old Luka Modric.
Mateo Kovacic, 24, cites the lack of first-team opportunities for his wanting to leave Real Madrid. But the European champions do not want to sell the midfielder who they see as a possible successor to the 32-year-old Luka Modric.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Chelsea are in talks to sign Real Madrid's Mateo Kovacic after the midfielder told the European champions yesterday of his desire to leave.

The 24-year-old is keen to play more regularly than he does for Real; he started in 10 of his 21 LaLiga appearances. But the club do not want to sell him because he is seen as the natural understudy to his fellow Croat Luka Modric, 32, who won the Golden Ball award at last month's World Cup.

Real have Kovacic in mind for a larger role in the future and a season-long loan move has been mooted, according to Marca.

Kovacic has been agitating for a transfer in the close season and told the Spanish daily in June that it was owing to his lack of first-team chances.

"I believe the best thing for me would be to go to another club, where I'd have the opportunity to play regularly as a starter. I can have this opportunity and it's one I want right now," he said.

The wheels, however, appear to be set in motion for the acrimonious exit of Chelsea No. 1 Thibaut Courtois to Real despite the possibility of landing one of Europe's top midfield talents in return.

The Blues yesterday reportedly opened disciplinary proceedings against the Belgium goalkeeper, 26, who failed to report for training for the second day running, and he could be hit with a £200,000 (S$354,000) fine as a result.

Spanish media reports yesterday said Real are closing in on a deal worth around €35 million (S$55.4 million) for Courtois, who has made clear his desire to leave Stamford Bridge before the closure of the transfer window tomorrow.

"Courtois, decision imminent", Marca ran as its headline, while Mundo Deportivo added that "his destination will be Real". AS also revealed that Chelsea want Kepa Arrizabalaga, 23, to be his replacement and "are willing to pay the €80 million release clause" to Athletic Bilbao for the Spain international.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2018, with the headline 'Chelsea keen on Kovacic, who wants out of Real'. Print Edition | Subscribe