Scout Report – Mario Pasalic
According to Italian journalist, Gianluca Di Marzio, Leeds United are plotting a move for Chelsea midfielder Mario Pasalic, who will be available on a season-long loan.
The 22-year old, who has been with the Premier League champions since 2014, has spent several spells away on loan, with his latest temporary stint being with AC Milan last season. He made 25 appearances for the Nerazzurri scoring 5 goals and assisting one.
Milan are keen on taking him back for another season, along with fellow Serie A side Lazio, but Leeds too are in the hunt to snap him up in the summer on loan according to Di Marzio. With such interest in the player, let’s take a closer look at who exactly Mario Pasalic is and what value will he bring to the team if he joins.
Born on 9 February 1995, in Mainz, Germany, Pasalic moved to Croatia at a very young age and began his football journey with lowly side NK GOŠK Kaštel Gomilica, before joining the youth academy of Hajduk Split in 2006 as an 11-year old.
Always highly rated by the people in the club, Pasalic was recognised as a special talent and he really broke onto the scenes in 2011-12, when he scored a brilliant 17 goals for the U-17s despite playing as a central midfielder. A staph infection in 2012 held him back for a while, but he finally made his professional debut in April 2013 in a 3-1 against Cibalia.
Ahead of the 2013-14 campaign, Pasalic signed a new four-year deal with the club and had a great first full season as he finished with 11 goals and 5 assists from 36 games across all competitions, which sparked a huge interest from clubs across Europe.
Eventually, it was Chelsea who snapped him up for a fee reported to be around £3million, with then Blues boss Jose Mourinho waxing lyrics about the youngster, despite having sent him out on loan to Spanish side Elche upon arrival.
Mourinho was quoted as saying by Croatian outlet Jutarnji:
“You’re asking me for Pasalic? For this boy I have nothing but praise, he is a great player, he is our great hope and from him in the future, we expect a lot. He went to Spain on loan, there will be progress. He will soon be part of our team.”
He made 34 appearances for Elche in 2014/15 season, scoring 3 goals. But he was shipped out on loan the subsequent season to French side AS Monaco, where Pasalic impressed again, scoring 7 goals in 29 games in all competitions, before heading to Milan for the 2016/17 season.
He made a name for himself at the San Siro after he scored the winning penalty against Juventus to help Milan win the Supercoppa Italiana, their first silverware since 2011. He played on 27 occasions for them, scoring 5 times.
Pasalic has represented Croatia at all the youth levels and was named in the 30-man shortlist for the FIFA World Cup 2014 Croatia senior squad. However, he didn’t make the final cut. He made his debut is September 2014 in a friendly against Cyprus. Till date, he has made 2 appearances for the national team.
Style of Play
Primarily a central midfielder, Pasalic can play in an advanced No.10 role behind the striker and can play in the defensive midfield too.
Playing in a classical 4-2-3-1, he is picked as one of the two pivots, but usually ends up playing high up the pitch. In a 4-3-3, he takes up a position in the right-side of the three man midfield and operates as a box-to-box midfielder.
One of his biggest strengths is that he is equally good with either of his feet, which makes him a tricky customer. He has the physical attributes, combined with good technical ability to operate as the midfielder who can work at both ends of the pitch. Known for his tactical and positional awareness, Pasalic knows very well to exploit even the tiniest of the spaces afforded by the opposition and can break up play with great ease in the defensive half.
His piercing through balls is another strong facet of his game. However, his ability to score regularly from the midfield areas, making smart runs in and around the penalty box, much like his idol and Chelsea legend, Frank Lampard, is what sets him apart and makes him special.
What Does The Future Hold?
With N’Golo Kante, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic already in the ranks at Stamford Bridge, it is highly unlikely that Pasalic will be getting a look-in into the first-team under Conte. However, having proven himself outside of England, a chance to play for an English side like Leeds United may well be considered a good option, despite it being a step down from the top tier.
He does have just a year left on his contract, but it is likely that Chelsea will get him to sign a new deal soon as he has shown that he has everything that it takes, to go and emulate his idol, Lampard.