Manchester City’s latest Croatian additions, Mateo Kovačić and Joško Gvardiol, have helped them lift yet another trophy in 2023 in their penalty shoot-out victory over Ivan Rakitić’s Sevilla. Gvardiol, the now most expensive defender in the world, has already won his first trophy after just one week with the club. Kovačić lifts his fourth Super Cup, making this a red hot start for the duo in Manchester.
Joško Gvardiol got the start at left-back and received a 7.6 SofaScore match rating after a solid defensive debut. Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri’s thundering leap got the better of Gvardiol and Ake in what seemed to be a miscommunication on who should cover the tall Morrocan. However, chemistry must be built and one cannot expect a flawless defensive performance from this new back-line. Luckily, City’s attacking prowess allowed them to get back in the game. Other than this mistake, Gvardiol settled into the game nicely and is already starting to build nice chemistry, most notably in his consistent attacking presence near the top corner of the Sevilla box where he remained a viable option for left-winger Jack Grealish to lay the ball off to. Gvardiol played the full 90, recording 1 clearance, 1 interception, 3/4 ground duels won, 1 dribble, 89% pass accuracy and 3 key passes. He also attempted 3 shots which shows that offensive flair he can bring to a game. However, he did not always seem comfortable and confident, as he was most likely nervous in his first start after such a big-time transfer.
Mateo Kovačić also got the start and will most likely be getting many more considering Kevin De Bruyne’s recent injury. This presents the perfect opportunity for the midfielder to really settle into this City team and allow Pep to help re-tool his game to a truly world-class level. Kovačić also put on a solid display, obtaining a 7.7 SofaScore match rating. Early in the game, he fed Haaland a beautiful through ball that sliced by two defenders, only to be wasted by the Norwegian. Kovačić won 3/5 ground duels, completed 3 key passes, 2/2 long balls and capped off his display with a well-taken penalty shoot-out goal. Kovačić’s mesmerizing dribbling and control dominated the game, and paired up next to the best defensive midfielder in the world in Rodri, he can only flourish even more this season. Kovačić now plays with the two best defensive midfielders in the world, for both club and country! 😉
These two summer transfers can only mean positive things for the future of the Croatian National Team and both Gvardiol and Kovačić’s careers. As a gifted and elite midfielder, Kovačić never quite fully reached his world-class potential. Now having joined a team like City, who know how to win and have a plethora of world-class talent, not to mention the best manager in the world, perhaps Kova can finally gain the tools he lacks to finally grow into the world-class player we know he can be. As for Gvardiol, he is already one of the world’s best defenders. And with the 90M Euro sum City payed for him, you best believe he will get his chances at the back. And with a coach like Pep who revitalized the careers of solid defenders like John Stones and Manuel Akanji, and helped curate average defenders like Nathan Ake into seemingly world-class talents over the course of just one season, imagine what Gvardiol, an already world-class defender, could become under this sort of tutelage and surrounded by a team with this sort of winning mentality. Not to mention, having two National Team members on the same squad can only be a benefit. With more time bonding together and spent on the pitch building chemistry, the translation to National Team play can only be positive. Imagine if more of our players played together for club, imagine 30-40 more matches per season building chemistry. It’s a big reason Spain was so strong in the 2008-2012 era with all those Barcelona players winning UCL’s and International trophies together.
How much do you think City will achieve this season with their newest additions? How do you think Kovačić and Gvardiol will fare in their first season at the Etihad?