Despite reports in the Spanish press that Liverpool are on the verge of paying €30M for Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic, journalists with ties to Liverpool at the Echo and BBC are claiming there is no truth to the new round of rumours linking the club to a player they lost out on last year.
Liverpool were strongly linked with Kovacic last summer while he was at Inter Milan, but in the end he headed to the La Liga giants for €29M, with Inter manager Roberto Mancini blaming Financial Fair Play and a need to balance Inter’s books for the sale. It’s not a move that has so far worked out for the player.
Ending up at one of the world’s biggest, richest clubs when he was just 21 years old—Kovacic turned 22 in May of this year—the midfielder saw far fewer minutes at Madrid than he had at Inter. In all competitions he managed 34 appearances, but they were mostly off the bench and he only played 1,400 miuntes.
That’s an average of 41 minutes per match, and all told, Kovacic only started 13 games—and only eight of those games were in La Liga. Meanwhile, Kovacic scored just one goal and two assists last season. That’s a goal involvement at a rate of around once every 470 minutes that he was on the pitch.
For a creative, attacking midfielder playing for a side as high-scoring as Madrid’s was last season, this is an exceptionally poor return. It’s the kind of poor return that rather makes sense of the Spanish press thinking—perhaps with good reason—that Kovacic might be on his way out at Madrid this summer.
And if he is, who better to link him to than the club that missed out on him the summer before? It’s all reasonable enough from a rumour mongering standpoint. It just doesn’t appear to be grounded in reality on the Liverpool end, where the club have a new manager with no targets and no interest in Kovacic.
As far as those other targets go, the club reportedly continue to inch towards getting a deal for Udinese and Poland midfielder Piotr Zielinski done. Liverpool are also still interested in Mahmoud Dahoud, a rising star 20-year-old who was a mainstay last season for Borussia Monchengladbach.