The 29-year-old has signed from Premier League rivals Chelsea and will be part of Pep Guardiola’s squad for the 2023/24 season.
Here are 10 things you may or may not know about our new man…
Kovacic was born in Linz, Austria to Bosnian Croat parents on 6 May, 1994.
Having started his football career with Linzer ASK in Linz, the likes of Bayern Munich, Juventus, Inter, Ajax and Stuttgart were all keen to sign him at the age of just 12.
However, Kovacic’s family decided a move to live back home in the Croatian capital Zagreb in 2007 was in everyone’s best interests and when Mateo was 13 years old he subsequently linked up with Dinamo Zagreb’s youth system.
Kovacic sustained a broken leg in 2009 but returned after a lengthy recovery and continued to impress within the Zagreb Academy, helping both the Under-17s and Under-19s to their respective titles.
He then went on to make his first team debut in November 2010 in a Croatian First Football League clash away at Hrvatski Dragovoljac.
The 16-year-old Kovacic made an instant impact, scoring Dinamo’s fourth goal in what was a 6-0 win and, in the process, at the age of 16 years and 198 days, he became the youngest goalscorer in the history of the Croatian league, breaking a record that had been set only a week earlier by Dino Špehar.
“To get in the Dinamo squad at 16, you knew he must have been really good. Everybody at the club knew he was something special already,” said teammate Jakub Sylvstr.
YOUNG AT ART
Having played seven senior games in the 2010/11 season, Kovacic truly established himself the following season, playing 32 times as Dinamo retained the Croatian title for the seventh season in a row with Kovacic also becoming the youngest player to ever captain the club during a game against NK Lucko.
He also became the second youngest scorer in the Champions League.
Having also found the target as Dinamo lifted the Croatian Cup final too, Kovacic was named as Croatian Football Hope of the Year in December 2011.
That same month he also became second youngest scorer in the history of Champions League with goal against Lyon. He was 17 years and 215 days on 7 December 2011.
After much speculation about his future, Kovacic made the move to Inter of Italy on 31 January, 2013, joining the Milan club for a fee of €14m, and inheriting Wesley Sneijder’s No.10 jersey upon his arrival.
Though that campaign was to prove a frustrating one for the Italian giants, such was Kovacic’s impact, by May he had been awarded the Gentleman Revelation of the Year prize, awarded by the Inter fans for the Club’s most promising young player.
Kovacic acquired the affectionate nickname of the Professor of Football from his Croatian national team-mate Niko Kranjcar back in 2013 after his assured international debut as an 18-year-old helped Croatia beat arch-rivals Serbia 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier.
In the ensuing decade since, Kovacic has more than lived up to that nickname, his intelligent, meticulous approach to the game and ability to be deployed in a number of roles in the engine room having seen the 29-year-old go on to become established as one of the most accomplished midfielders of his generation.
MADRID MEDALLION MAN
Kovacic’s progress continued across the following two seasons, before Financial Fair Play regulations saw Inter reluctantly agree to sell Kovacic to Real Madrid who swooped to secure his services in 2015.
Over the course of three seasons at the Bernabeu, Kovacic played more than 100 times for Real and amassed a huge horde of silverware.
All told, he helped Real lift three Champions League titles, two UEFA Super Cup titles, two FIFA Club World Cup titles, one La Liga crown and a Spanish Super Cup for good measure.
Mateo made another switch in the summer of 2018, making to move to Chelsea – initially on loan – before sealing a permanent transfer to England’s capital a year later.
A successful first season at Stamford Bridge culminated in Kovacic helping the Club claim the Europa League via a 4-1 win over Arsenal in the 2019 final in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Kovacic’s impressive impact at Chelsea saw him subsequently named as the Club’s Player of the Year in July 2020 and the following season ended with him securing a fourth Champions League winners’ medal, the Croatian coming on late in the second half of the 2021 final as Chelsea edged out City 1-0 in Porto, Portugal.
That was subsequently followed by success for both Chelsea and Kovacic in the 2021 UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.
SUCCESS IN ANY LANGUAGE
Kovacic’s career has seen him operate with huge distinction in Croatia, Italy, Spain and more latterly England.
And his smooth transition to operating across a variety of Europe’s top leagues, has been mirrored off the field.
As well as his native Croatian, Kovacic is also proficient in four other languages – English, German, Italian and Spanish, a facet that has helped him integrate seamlessly across a variety of Europe’s top leagues.
Kovacic married his childhood sweetheart Izabel Andrijanic in 2017, the pair having met at church a decade earlier.
A devout Catholic, Kovacic attends church every Sunday.
Mateo and Izabel have subsequently become parents to a little boy, Ivan, and Luka Modric – Kovacic’s former Real Madrid teammate and Croatian national colleague – is godfather.
In 2018, Kovacic along with the rest of the Croatian World Cup squad from that year, was awarded the Order of Duke Branimir.
Recognised as one of the most prestigious honours awarded to Croatian nationals, it recognises excellence in promoting Croatia in international relations.
It followed Kovacic and Co reaching the 2018 World Cup final in Russia where a memorable campaign ended with a 4-2 loss to France in Moscow in the showpiece.