Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola has made an interesting comparison between Mateo Kovacic and AC Milan icon Andrea Pirlo as he praised the midfielder’s ability in keeping the ball.

The 27-year-old is certainly a quite fascinating player.

He often gets the fans on the edge of their seat as he elegantly glides past players in midfield, but his output is rather underwhelming.

He ended the season without scoring any goal for Chelsea and provided just two assists in all competitions. That is surprisingly low for a player of his quality.

Zola, however, insisted that he should not be perceived as an attacking player in the first place.

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“Until he got injured this year, for me, he was the player of the season [for Chelsea],” Zola told beIN SPORTS about Kovavic.

“He’s been outstanding and consistent in terms of quality.

“I remember, because I used to work a lot with him, we spoke a lot about his game.

“And I always thought he’s always been presented as an offensive player — like a No.10.

“In my opinion, he’s better playing [deeper] and organsing the game, like [Andrea] Pirlo.

“Different qualities, but like Pirlo.

“He never loses the ball. I remember in some small area training sessions [at Chelsea] that he never lost the ball — he was unbelievable in this [aspect].”

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Chronicle view

The Croatia international missed about nine games due to a one-month injury absence between April and May.

Mason Mount eventually beat him to Chelsea’s player of the year award in 2020/21, although Kovacic already won it last season.

Zola’s comparing Kovacic with Pirlo is an interesting argument.

Unlike Pirlo with his incredible playmaking ability, Kovacic can often set the tempo of the game with his dribbling, instead.

He often accelerates the game by carrying the ball forward.

But even Pirlo who often sat very deep in midfield was consistently directly involved in 10 or more goals a season.

Even Kovacic himself is aware that he needs to improve in this area when speaking about his poor goalscoring record in an interview last year.

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