Reports of Liverpool interest in Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic have always been built around a core assumption that he is considered surplus to requirements by manager Roberto Mancini. It’s not that the Italian doesn’t rate the young star, but rather that he’s desperate to bring in Yaya Toure and of all his saleable assets, Kovacic is the one he’s most willing to part with in order to fund that move.
The whole idea of Liverpool landing the 21-year-old Croatian star for a relative bargain is based on that, and without it, the very idea of his potential transfer to Anfield becomes far more difficult to credit. That makes a recent statement on the player’s future from Mancini himself rather deflating for those who in recent weeks had allowed themselves to grow exciting by the idea of Liverpool signing Kovacic.
"He’ll become a champion here," Mancini told Sky Italia when pressed about Kovacic’s future following weeks of persistent rumours linking him with a Liverpool move. "Of course he’s still lacking some things, but he’s improved a lot. I think that’s showed. So at the moment there’s nothing, and I think he will stay. I don’t think we’ll sell our top players—I don’t think that’s a risk worth taking."
What a manager says and what a club goes on to do can of course turn out to be very different things, but with Mancini talking of risks not worth taking and that he thinks Kovacic will stay, at the very least it’s hard to see this deal being anything like done. Many Liverpool fans, though, will be hoping it’s simply a matter of Mancini protecting an asset, making sure that if they do sell Kovacic, it’s for a good price.
Liverpool, meanwhile, are nearing the signing of out of contract goalkeeper Adam Bogdan as a replacement for the departing Brad Jones, which will mark the club’s third signing of the summer—and the third signing of an out of contract player with experience in England.