'Sublime': Pat Nevin says 'sparkling' £40m man had one of best ever games for Chelsea vs Villa

Pat Nevin picked out Mateo Kovacic’s performance against Aston Villa last weekend as arguably his finest in a Chelsea shirt to date.

Writing in his column for the club website, Nevin scribed nothing but kind words for the Croatian’s all-encompassing display on Saturday.

It was Romelu Lukaku who claimed the headlines for scoring his first and second ever goals at Stamford Bridge.

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Edouard Mendy made a few fine saves in the first half to maintain Chelsea’s advantage.

But it was the constantly moving, readily available, master of control Kovacic who deserved the lime share of credit.

The £40m (BBC) man from Real Madrid played a delightful through ball to set-up Lukaku’s opener, a skill not often associated to his varied armoury.

His build up to the assist was more accustomed; a delightful dribble to make space for the precise pass.

He then rippled the net himself, after pouncing on a Villa mistake and finishing with a real flourish.

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Pat on the back

“It must be mentioned that Mateo Kovacic had one of the best games of his Chelsea career at the weekend,” purred Nevin over the 27-year-old’s exhibition.  

“Every part of his performance was sublime.

“The through ball for Romelu for the opener was one that Glenn Hoddle, Cesc Fabregas or Andrea Pirlo would have been bursting with pride to have delivered, in their pomp!”

A midfielder’s hall of fame right there, one Kovacic should be honoured to be compared with.

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Dynamite dribbler

But Nevin’s applause did not just end at the Villa victory.   

“The thing I like most, with the possible exception of his telepathic understanding with Jorginho (are there two midfielders who work in tandem better in the league?), is his ability to beat players with a shimmy and a dribble,” continued the former Blues winger.

“Time and again he takes entire opposition midfields out of the game with a sway of the hips and a cute turn, then he drives into space.”

Elegance in possession has become a staple part of the Croatian’s game, an ability very few in his position have managed to tie down.

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It’s what truly sets him apart from his midfield comrades, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho.

Their respective attributes allows the trio to compliment each other excellently.

“If you spend your time in a midfield with the staggering brilliance of Kante and the now-accepted world-class ability to control games that Jorginho has, it would be easy to be overlooked,” concluded Nevin.

“Right now, you can’t overlook Mateo. He is sparkling alongside the best in the business.”

Depending on how Chelsea conclude the campaign, Kovacic could well be one of the underrated heroes of the year.

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"Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produced regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League. Nathaniel is a full-time writer for the Chelsea Chronicle, and was formerly their social media man. His footballing career reached the sparkling heights of winning the Under-13s Bloxham Tournament in 2011."