It would be something of a cliche to relate Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic purely on the back of their similar position and nationality, but much work is going on behind the scenes to mould the former Inter prodigy into a natural successor to the 31-year-old.
On the verge of an exit from Real Madrid in the summer, Kovacic has demonstrated his ability in 2016/17 to become a solid alternative to his compatriot in Zinedine Zidane’s eyes.
It’s no coincidence either, as Modric took the 22-year-old under his wing from day one, teaching him the ins and outs of how to succeed at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Kovacic’s performance against Real Betis was arguably his best in a Blancos jersey, kicking off the play of the match with two wonderful passes that led to Isco finishing off a rapid counter-attack as part of his fifth league start of the year having only been given eight in 2015/16.
Much of the work is taking place off the pitch, too, with the young Croatian integrating well with his multinational teammates. Speaking German, Italian, and English alongside his native tongue, Kovacic has struck up a good friendship with Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane as well as Modric.
A cultured player and person, Real are now seeing the first steps in Kovacic’s ability to fulfill his potential and become a genuine long-term prospect for the capital club.