Joe Cole tells Graham Potter who can unlock Chelsea's own Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo


Joe Cole has claimed that Mateo Kovacic is key to Chelsea unlocking their very own Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. The 28-year-old midfielder has been central to the Blues' success in recent years, guiding the clubs to a second Champions League title, the Club World Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Europa League.

Kovacic, who sees his contract at Stamford Bridge expire at the end of next season , has featured 23 times for the west Londoners this season, often captaining the side. The Croatia international's impressive performances have seen him become a constant feature in the Chelsea starting lineup.

And Cole believes that Kovacic is the key to facilitating the Blues' wealth of firepower, with the likes of Mykhailo Mudryk, Raheem Sterling, Kai Havertz and Joao Felix struggling to find the net on a frequent basis. Speaking on BT Sport, the former Chelsea midfielder stressed just how important the £22.3million-rated Croatian is to Graham Potter's project.

"Twenty years ago we talked so much about how many goals have you got? How many assists have you got?" Cole said. "The game’s moved through different stages now and I think Kovacic is as good as anyone in the league at getting the ball off of a full-back in tight areas, driving past people and opening up.

"If you’re Sterling, Havertz or Joao Felix what he does is give you time on the ball. If you could have Messi, Ronaldo, [Diego] Maradona in those positions, if you haven’t got a player like that in midfield who’s capable of getting you out of a press and playing the ball to your feet, you’re wasted. "He’s fantastic at that. Every player I’ve talked about playing against him hates playing against him, so that’s always good."

With Enzo Fernandez often joining Kovacic in midfield, Cole explained how the duo have complemented one another. He add:

"I think Kovacic is one of the most underrated midfielders in the league - he does such a fantastic job. "They balance each other really well, he [Kovacic] was picking the ball up in deep areas and he probes with his passes, he doesn’t mess about. He’s not one of them players who has to mess about turning around to face the goal trying to score, he’s going to play forward when he can. He’s got lovely range of passing and they just looked balanced."

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