Kovacic: The new heart of Internazionale

Posted by Mike Whittaker

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesMateo Kovacic: Could he become one of the world's best?

Inter came into the 2012/13 season looking to make amends for the disappointing sixth place finish achieved last season. However, circumstances have overtaken the club in the months since their ten-game winning spree, leaving them in what can only be described as a mess. I'm not going to get into who's to blame for the Nerazzurri's fall from grace or even the vast list of injuries suffered by key members of the squad, but the fact remains that these things have resulted in the club ending the current campaign in an even worse position than they started it.

It's not all bad though, there have been a few shining lights at the end of this dark tunnel that make me hopeful of a bright future for the Nerazzurri. The brightest and most promising is a midfielder that has drawn plaudits from fans and pundits around the world since his arrival at Inter back in January: Mateo Kovacic.

- Moratti plays down Stramaccioni speculation

The 19-year-old Croatian joined Inter on the final day of the January transfer window, at a time when Interisti were still reeling from the decision to sell Phillipe Coutinho to Liverpool; a deal which most people, myself included, still fail to see the logic in. With the lack of chances Coutinho had been given during his time at Inter, it was expected that the same fate was about to befall the club's newest potential superstar.

Almost ironically the same circumstances that probably cost Inter their season, also thrust the then 18-year-old Kovacic into the limelight. This chance hasn't been wasted by the talented midfielder, who even though he has been played much deeper than his preferred central midfield role, he has taken up the challenge of proving his worth to the team, and is now well on his way to becoming a real fan favourite on the pitch.

Inter's new number 10 has already, in 12 appearances, received several standing ovations from the Inter faithful, for the incredible maturity, vision and composure he shows when on the pitch. Watching Kovacic play is a joy, with his sublime dribbling technique, his balance and ball control. The youngster emerges from challenges with the ball glued to his feet time after time, ready to continue a charge up field or to pick out one of his team-mates with his pinpoint passing.

Kovacic has been compared to the AC Milan legend Zvonimir Boban, who told Sky Italia: "He has talents that could make him even better than me, he is an incredibly serious professional for someone his age. Kovacic is a complete player."

This is an accolade that the young Croatian must be very proud of, considering the legendary status of his compatriot. However, for me, watching Kovacic brings back memories of watching a certain Inter striker's surging runs; that legendary player is none other than Ronaldo. I realise these two are very different kinds of players, but both have a very rare talent of keeping the ball at their feet and amazing the watching fans.

Ronaldo was the player that cemented mine, and many others', infatuation with the Interisti and I truly believe that if this is what Kovacic can achieve in four months of playing out of position, then in the future he could have the same magnificent effect on the next generation of Inter fans.

On Monday evening, the 19-year-old received his first official award as an Inter player, when he was handed the 'Gentleman Revelation of the Year' prize during his first appearance at the annual San Siro Gentleman Awards. The awards are held to show recognition of sportsmanship, fair play and style in players, both on and off the pitch. I have the feeling this won't be the last accolade Kovacic will be awarded during his career, my only fear is that Inter will do to the Croatian what they have done so many times in the past, most recently with Coutinho, and cash in on the very talented youngster.

If selling Coutinho was a huge mistake, then selling Kovacic would be catastrophic. Inter must develop their most valuable asset into the next club legend, and hopefully manage to keep him in the heart of their squad for the next 12 to 15 years. After all, this is a player who has the potential to be one of the best in the world, and considering the club have been looking for a player to build their future squad around, why shouldn't it be Kovacic?

With all the talent Inter have already reportedly signed for next season, there is every chance that the Nerazzurri, with Kovacic in the heart of the formation, will once again have a world beating squad in a few years' time. As you can see from this suggested formation the club already possess the players for the future and with the likes of Diego Milito and Javier Zanetti adding depth, there is no real need to purchase any more players to make this a great starting point for the coming years.

football formations

I'm hoping that whoever is in charge at Inter next season manages to break the cycle in Italy, and put all their faith in this young line-up and use the lack of European distractions to build a team that can take Inter back to the top for many years to come. Many of you may argue that a young team like this cannot win titles, but I disagree, with a season or two to gel together they have the potential to be a solid and competitive group that can take on the best in Europe, with the help of Inter's shining star Kovacic.

ESPN Conversations