Chelsea manager Graham Potter may be focused on his current crop of players as they ply their trade at the World Cup in Qatar, but Josko Gvardiol of RB Leipzig is one star beyond the club’s clutches that will have caught the eye.
Indeed, the likes of Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech have basked in pivotal roles behind knockout qualification; Raheem Sterling has contributed for England, and Kalidou Koulibaly has been an ever-present for Senegal – evening scoring to secure a place in the last-16.
However, Gvardiol will undoubtedly have the Blues board scrambling to make the requisite steps toward bringing him to Stamford Bridge, with the 20-year-old titan already soaring for Croatia from the heart of the defence, putting in impeccable performances to secure qualification to the next phase.
With reports stating that Chelsea are in negotiations for the player, Gvardiol himself sent the media into a frenzy by saying “who knows, maybe one day” when recently asked his thoughts regarding his future by The Athletic.
On the Chalkboard
Scarcely do players announce themselves to the major stage with such resounding conviction, so young, and with so much assurance, but Gvardiol has succeeded across all of these departments.
Making his international debut last summer, and playing in the 2020 Euros, Gvardiol has since gone on to be a regular name on the Croatian team sheet and making 15 appearances, concurrently nurturing his abilities and earning plaudits for his spectacular outings at club level, for Leipzig.
At the 2022 World Cup, the £51.5m-rated phenom has recorded an average rating of 7.3, as per Sofascore, conceding just one goal.
Notably, he produced a masterclass of a performance in the group finale against Belgium, earning a priceless 0-0 draw and eliminating their beleaguered opposition in the process.
Losing possession just three times, despite the turbulent waves of pressure from the Red Devils, Gvardiol was a wall of pure steel at the back, winning two of his three ground duels and making nine clearances.
Perching on the left-side of the central defence, Gvardiol has recorded an average passing accuracy of 90% and won 64% of his duels, both ground and aerial.
In fact, having lost possession just eight times across the entirety of the tournament, Gvardiol emanates the composure and assurance to become a player of some calibre, and Potter should swoop.
This defensive dominance has further been shown by his average of 1.7 interceptions and 5.7 clearances, via Sofascore, resulting in a clean sheet in two of Vatreni’s three group games.
And his international endeavours are further strengthened by his efforts in Germany, with FBref ranking him in the top percentile for passes attempted and dribbles completed, also in the top 5% for progressive passes when compared to defenders across Europe’s big five leagues, always with an eye on creating forward transitions.
With an emphasis on ball-playing, fluid football, the Blues manager would be delighted to welcome a dogged defender boasting the modern sheen to flourish at the club, and the “monster”, as lauded by Fabrizio Romano this week, could take that mantle.