Joe Cole believes Mateo Kovacic is “different class” from the current midfielders at Chelsea before claiming he brings more to the team than Cesc Fabregas.

Kovacic arrived at Stamford Bridge on a season-long loan in the summer as part of the deal that saw Thibaut Courtois move the other way to Real Madrid. The Croatia international has been battling for a spot in Maurizio Sarri’s XI, having started in six league matches and appearing as a substitute in three further games.

Yet while the competition for places in midfield remains fierce, Kovacic has become a fan favourite at the Bridge due to his technical ability with the ball and a budding link-up play with Eden Hazard at Chelsea’s left flank. Besides Blues supporters, Kovacic has also earned praise from a former Blues great in the form of Cole.

The former Blues and England winger, who spent seven successful years with the west London club, reckons the Real Madrid loanee adds a different quality to the Chelsea midfield, citing his ability to drive forward with the ball is a vital asset to how his side plays.

“I think he’s different class,” said the 37-year-old London native. “We know he isn’t a prolific goalscorer from midfield but when you watch him closely what he does is he drives with the ball. Straight away that’s unnerving the (opposition) back four because he’s got that ability to just ghost past players.

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Cole then added that this special trait separates the Croatian from his fellow Chelsea midfielders, saying that while Fabregas has other great qualities, the Spaniard does not have the sudden burst of speed to blow past opponents.

“Cesc Fabregas is a great player but what he gives Chelsea on top of what Cesc can’t do is he can drive and take players out of the game from a central midfield position. It allows space then for the Willians, the Eden Hazards and the Pedros to receive the ball,” continued the former England international.

“I think he’s vital for the way Chelsea want to play. He would like to score more goals from midfield I’m sure. He’ll be one of those players I think when he’s not there, that’s when you’re not going to notice him. He drives and links the play from the defence to the attack so well.”