MATEO KOVACIC claims Chelsea finally have a ‘good’ striker in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
And the Croatian midfield ace is praying that it turns his side into title contenders – instead of too-rans.
Chelsea’s struggle to find a centre-forward who can handle English football – and the pressure of being at one of Europe’s top clubs – has coincided with their demise as a national force.
Although Kovacic is focused on European action tonight at the club where he started his career, he has his sights set on title glory with former Arsenal star Aubameyang.
The Gabon striker, 33, has just joined Barcelona for £12m.
And ahead of the Champions League Group E opener against Dinamo Zagreb, 28-year-old Kovacic said: “I can say he will be a big plus for us.
“He’s a good striker and goalscorer, which we’ve been lacking in recent years.
“We haven’t had someone who scores 20-25 goals per season, which is obviously what you need to win the title.
“For him it’s normal to score goals and I hope he does that here at Chelsea.
“I haven’t seen him in training yet, but he trained with the team yesterday – and he’s a great player.
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“He’s scored goals everywhere so we’re looking forward to having him in our squad and he’ll be a big addition.”
Chelsea haven’t won the league since bad boy Diego Costa was at the club in 2017.
Sullen striker Alvaro Morata’s successors, Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku have all failed.
And the Blues have ended up finishing fifth, third, fourth, fourth and third since being crowned champions under Antonio Conte.
Kovacic has won the Champions League and Europa League since his first loan spell in 2018.
But every player covets success over 38 games in the toughest league in the world.
The dynamic midfielder will be a big part of that now, as he recovers from a knee injury that has been bothering him since pre-season.
Born in Austria, he will receive a warm welcome here tonight as a returning legend who started life at Dinamo Zagreb.
He then embarked on a tour of Europe’s elite teams, including Real Madrid and Inter Milan, as well as Chelsea.
Stamford Bridge boss Thomas Tuchel said: “Kova is a fantastic player of course, but on top of that he’s also a fantastic person with personality. Such an incredibly good team player.
“It’s a pleasure to be his coach and a pleasure for everyone to be his teammate.
“It’s important to have him with us. He’s very emotional and very happy to be back here.
“It’s his city, his country for which he plays with great pride. We are happy that he is now back.
“He’s regaining his form and we’re happy he’s back on the pitch in training.”
Kovacic’s influence at Blues is growing off and on the pitch.
He revealed that chairman Todd Boehly had been scrambling to try and sign fellow Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol, 20, from RB Leipzig during the summer window.
Chelsea saw an £80million bid rejected but Kovacic will hope he can still reunite with his international team-mate at club level.
Kovacic said: “At the club they asked me about Josko – I told them everything the best.
“I have nothing to say about his football, they know what kind of player he is and his character is excellent.
“He has a great career ahead of him and I hope we will play together at the club.”
CHELSEA (likely): Mendy, Azpilicueta, Koulibaly, Fofana, James, Kovacic, Jorginho, Cucurella, Mount, Havertz, Sterling.