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Mateo Kovacic might boast three Champions League winners’ medals but will still break new ground by taking the field for Chelsea in Saturday’s final.
Croatia midfielder Kovacic featured across all of Real Madrid’s three straight Champions League triumphs between 2016 and 2018, but has still never played in a final.
The 27-year-old was an unused substitute in both the 4-1 win over Juventus in 2017 and 3-1 victory against Liverpool a year later.
So if and when he steps out against Manchester City in Porto on Saturday, he will break a personal duck – then quickly refocus on chasing the trophy.
“Obviously I was three years at Madrid and unfortunately I didn’t play in a final,” said Kovacic.
“It is never easy, but I played my part in that team, which was to be there and if somebody was injured or could not play, I was always there to help. That was my part there.
“Chelsea is a bit different. It would be huge for me to play in a final.
“When I left Madrid I said I would try my best to work very hard to one time reach the final and play, and thanks to God we are here.
“We’ll play a big game on Saturday, but in the end it is just important that the team wins.
“It is never important who will be the main figure or who will start the game, just the most important thing is the team.
“At Chelsea we showed we are a family, a team, and we will do that on Saturday – try to be a team and do our best to win the trophy.”
Kovacic traded Real for Chelsea on loan in the summer of 2018, before making the switch permanent a year later.
He has found his niche at Stamford Bridge, and should feature against City now his recent hamstring problem is in the past.
Should Chelsea upset the odds and topple Pep Guardiola’s City, Kovacic insisted he would not prize any Chelsea success ahead of his achievements at Real.
Asked if a winners’ medal with a more pivotal role with Chelsea would mean more than his gongs from Real, Kovacic replied: “Both are special, both will be in a special place because it is just big to win a Champions League title, it is never easy.
“In Madrid I won it three times, not playing in the finals, but still I was there and always the team wins.
“So now some players maybe will not play they need to know that this is a team sport and we win as a team and lose as a team.
“In the end it doesn’t matter who will play. Of course somebody will be disappointed and it is normal but in finals we need to be a team, all 25, 26 players to show everybody played his part, maybe some bigger and some smaller but this is a team sport and we will do our best to be a team.
“To be a family and to do our best on Saturday.”