Garth Crooks believes Chelsea boss Frank Lampard “discovered” the real Mateo Kovacic in their 3-2 win over Norwich City.
The 25-year-old Croatia international permanently joined the Blues this summer after spending a season on loan from Real Madrid in 2018/19.
Kovacic’s debut campaign at Stamford Bridge was not universally lauded, with many critics often pointing to his lack of attacking involvement, something he himself has acknowledged.
Lampard’s arrival, though, came as a blessing for the likes of Kovacic, who feels his more progressive approach could light a fire under him.
Since taking over Maurizio Sarri, who is now leading Juventus, the former England midfielder has used Kovacic in each of his three Premier League games so far.
His most recent outing at newly-promoted Norwich City saw Kovacic adopt a similar role to the injured N’Golo Kante, which impressed Crooks, who feels Lampard deserves some recognition for unleashing this ability in him.
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“Since the departures of Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack, John Terry and Frank Lampard, Chelsea have lacked leadership on the pitch,” he wrote on his BBC Sport column.
“The arrival of Mateo Kovacic at Stamford Bridge didn’t convince me that anything had changed until his performance against Norwich. In the absence of N’Golo Kante, the Croatia international looked immense. I knew he could tackle, compete and was full of enthusiasm but I didn’t think he could play.
“Every time I watch him at Stamford Bridge, he plays the ball everywhere apart from where it should have gone. His performance against Norwich proved he is much better than that. His manger Lampard may have discovered a player here.”
Kovacic’s game by numbers v Norwich City: Five key things to know…
- Touches: 82
- Successful passes: 47
- Take-ons completed: 6 (most)
- Tackles won: 4
- Chances created: 2 (one assist)