It’s always been close, but not close enough for Mateo Kovacic.

He has been in touching distance of footballing treasure so many times in his career, only to be dragged back at the final second.

The Chelsea midfielder may have won four Champions League titles, but only actually featured for a total of 17 minutes across the entire quartet of finals.

Kovacic was sent off in the 2020 FA Cup finale, was injured for the subsequent match at Wembley and then lost to Liverpool earlier this year.

Chelsea v Liverpool: The Emirates FA Cup Final
Photo by Visionhaus//Getty Images

Jurgen Klopp’s men delivered a similar blow to the Blues and their Croatian midfielder in the Carabao Cup final last season.

It’s not only club football that has tormented Kovacic.

Croatia’s loss to France in the 2018 World Cup showpiece event will live long in the memory, even if Chelsea’s number eight was not selected for that fixture or the semi-final.

Defeat in Russia four-years ago will be joined by the semi-final set-back suffered in the latest addition in Qatar.

Kovacic did feature in this game, yet was unable to halt Argentina from claiming a 3-0 victory.

A bronze medal would have to do instead of silver or gold for the Croat.

Croatia v Morocco: 3rd Place - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Photo by Youssef Loulidi/Fantasista/Getty Images

Mateo Kovacic cruises at the World Cup

However, for all the near misses, he has hit the target on countless occasions.

The 28-year-old certainly delivered the goods at the World Cup this winter as he, Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic were the beating heart of Croatia’s team.

His performances were typically gracious and gritty, with the added element of something that might benefit Graham Potter massively.

According to, Kovacic made 24 tackles, the second highest figure at the World Cup behind Achraf Hakimi.

Clearly, the midfielder was not intent on missing much in the competition, especially not his rival’s ankles.

It was a trait not often associated to the player; one Potter will hope continues when domestic action returns.

Croatia v Brazil: Quarter Final - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

With N’Golo Kante still side-lined, Chelsea could certainly do with a midfield enforcer who can both disrupt and dictate.

None of Jorginho, Conor Gallagher, Denis Zakaria nor Ruben Loftus-Cheek are suited to such a role.

But maybe Kovacic is the answer to the question left by Kante’s absence.

Whilst he usually plays box-to-box, perhaps Potter will consider dropping the Croatian international a little deeper to help protect the defence.

If it works, we will only take some of the credit…

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