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It all revolves around Enzo: How Kovacic return maps out Chelsea transfer policy

COMMENT: Enzo Fernandez. It's obvious. For Chelsea, he isn't simply one more. Whether it's from inside the dressing room, or buying from outside, a team will be built around the Argentine. The return of Mateo Kovacic is proof enough of that...

Now we're seeing what €120m gets you. Now we're seeing why Chelsea's football chiefs were so adamant that Fernandez be brought to London. And it really is all down to Kovacic getting himself fit again. Sitting deeper. Taking on the defensive role. The Croatian's presence has allowed Fernandez to push further upfield. Where those clever inside passes would buy his teammates time inside their own half, that passing range is now being put to greater effect in a more advanced position.

And it's exciting. It's exciting to see a midfielder capable of passing through the lines. Of taking out one, two, three opponents with a threaded ball between and through a back four. It's a different team with the Argentine in possession beyond the halfway line. Not only as a goal threat, but also in terms of style and tempo

And it must be highlighted - Kovacic's return has really transformed the look of Graham Potter's XI.

Three wins from three. And all achieved with the captain's armband. Kovacic has rescued Chelsea's season. And perhaps even his manager's job. No wonder Potter was so effusive with his praise for the 28 year-old last week. Kovacic, with N'Golo Kante still working his way back after hamstring surgery, that key piece in the jigsaw. The one to free up their World Cup winner. To allow Potter to play Enzo to his strengths - and crucially not weigh him down with defensive duties. As we say, the team is transformed. Their fortunes too. And no-one is more grateful than Potter.

"He's been the captain in the last two games," stated the manager last week, "which tells you how influential he is. He's a fantastic guy, I really like him. He is determined, has character, courage, and is prepared to take the ball in tight situations.

"What he's achieved in his career with his national team and here at Chelsea, he is an important player for us."

The presence of Kovacic. The way he is utilised alongside Fernandez. This is how Potter sees his midfield. They may not always be paired together. But in terms of a combination, it will be Enzo and one more. A player capable of moving the ball quickly. Getting his foot in. And crucially, having the knack to always get his defensive positioning correct. At 20 and at this stage in his development. That's simply not in Enzo's game. And as shown in the absence of Kovacic, that lack of natural defensive nous can become a liability. Think Paul Pogba at his worst with Manchester United.

Which is why we're seeing the influence of Enzo on Chelsea's transfer plans. Of course, with the threat of Financial Fair Play lingering, so much will depend on the team's Champions League push. But it's clear, no matter the budget afforded Potter and his backroom team, a midfielder will be signed to create a platform essentially for Enzo.

Declan Rice (West Ham), Franck Kessie (Barcelona) and young Manu Kone (Borussia Monchengladbach), they've all been mentioned in the press this week. And there's a common thread connecting each of them. Athletes. Runners. With a strong defensive game. It's obvious what Potter and the transfer committee have planned. For this new era at Chelsea, it'll be Enzo and one more.

That's not to say Kovacic should be looking elsewhere. It's obvious how much he is thought of inside the club. With less than 18 months to run on his current deal, there will be moves to secure him to a new contract. At 28, he has a huge role to play in this team's future.

But Chelsea, as crazy as it sounds given their spending spree, lack depth in midfield. And without the right type of midfielder playing alongside him, Fernandez can be exposed. Again, you only need consider the club's actions in the market to realise that.

But whether it's Rice, Kessie - or even a fully fit and re-signed Kante, Kovacic will be part of this new-look Chelsea team. If it was an audition, he's aced these past few weeks. His influence on the club's revival cannot be underestimated.

It really did take Kovacic's return to make us all realise why Chelsea went as far as they did to bring Fernandez in from Benfica. It's obvious now that Chelsea will be built around the Argentine - thanks to the impact of a fully fit Mateo Kovacic.

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Chris Beattie
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