If you watch Mateo Kovačić play, one of Brendan Rodgers' favourite terms — "technician" — seems as appropriate as could be. The young Croatian midfielder possesses skill in dizzying abundance and has featured regularly for Internazionale this season primarily in central midfield or as a number ten. He actually wears the number ten shirt — previously worn by Wesley Sneijder — for the Nerazzuri and was mostly purchased the proceeds from Philippe Coutinho's sale to Liverpool, but will Kovačić be another young player sacrificed to fulfil another manager's plans?
Liverpool reportedly bid £7.5 million earlier in the month, but that bid was rejected as Kovačić's value is closer to double that, if not more. If Inter is to sell another player who was billed as "the future", a sizeable offer will have to be made in order to be funnelled elsewhere to improve a side with designs on returning to the Champions League with a strong campaign next season. A mooted deal for Yaya Touré will require a significant financial commitment that may be beyond the Serie A club without selling a few players of value who don't feature highly in Mancini's plans for the future.
Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport have claimed that Liverpool submitted a second offer of £12.9 million for the services of the 21-year-old midfielder, and while this is a considerable improvement on the original offer, a compromise will need to be reached as Inter's valuation of the player is close to £18 million. The former Dinamo player has clocked 50 starts in the past two-and-a-half seasons and ranks seventh in Serie A minutes for Inter this season, which isn't too bad for a player moving from his late teens into his early twenties. Similar to Coutinho, a player of such ability should be a key player in a side by 22 or 23, and there is doubt whether his current club is the place for him to be a key member of the first-team squad.
Coutinho and Kovačić in the same side would be pure joy for forwards with movement and pace (something for Liverpool to think about perhaps) in a league where defenders struggle to shackle creative talents who can operate at the blistering pace accompanying virtually every league game. If Liverpool are looking for a midfielder who at least possesses the potential and existing talent to fill a creative void left by Steven Gerrard, moving for Coutinho's successor is an extremely sensible course of action.