In January of 2013, Liverpool bought Philippe Coutinho for a bargain £8.5M fee from Inter Milan. Based on talent it always seemed a low fee, but the diminutive Brazilian had struggled in Serie A and besides, new manager Andrea Stramaccioni had his heart set on another young, creative midfielder: Dinamo Zagreb’s young Croatian international Mateo Kovacic.
And so Coutinho was sold, helping to fund the £10M purchase of Kovacic. He’s been a near constant in Inter’s first team since, racking up 32 league appearances in 2013-14, his first full season at the club, and a further 32 so far this year. All told, he’s made 94 appearances in two and a half seasons with the Nerazzurri, with eight goals and nine assists to show for it—with eight and three of those coming this season.
Now 21 years of age, the creative central midfielder—he’s comfortable either in a deep-lying playmaker role or deployed further forward like Coutinho—seems set to take the next step and emerge as one of the game’s top young talents. Rumour has it that despite this, he doesn’t fit into the plans of current manager Roberto Mancini, who may be open to selling him to help fund the signing of a player more to his liking.
It’s fittingly amusing that Liverpool are now being rumoured as a potential suitor for Kovacic, with reports suggesting he might be had for somewhere in the £10-15M range. It seems unlikely, as for that kind of a fee, Kovacic would be a steal, even if at his age he seems likely to take some time to adjust to a new league. Then again, for £8.5M, Coutinho was even more of a steal.
If Liverpool were somehow to end up with Kovacic, it might even look the start of a trend, and hopefully the Italian giants would invest the money in a third talented youngster Liverpool could then pick up for a bargain in another two or so years.