In August 2015, Real Madrid made a surprise move to sign Inter Milan midfielder Mateo Kovacic for £25 million. There wasn’t much fanfare surrounding Kovacic’s arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu, despite many other European sides monitoring his progress in Italy. The Croatia international had thrived at Inter. He became a key player, racking up 97 appearances for the Nerazzurri, all before turning 21.
Kovacic turns 24 on Sunday. Despite achieving success at Madrid, he will be disappointed with his lack of playing time. He’s made 18 La Liga appearances and six more in the Champions League this season. Combined, however, it amounts to just over 1,050 first-team minutes.