- Jul 11, 2011
Date of birth: 6 May 1994
Place of birth: Linz, Austria
Height: 1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in)
Playing position: Midfielder
Mateo Kovačić (born 6 May 1994) is a Croatian professional footballer who currently plays for Prva HNL team Dinamo Zagreb and the Croatia national under-17 football team in the attacking midfielder role.
Born in Linz in Austria to Bosnian Croat parents who had moved there in 1991 from Kotor Varoš in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kovačić began playing at an early age at the local LASK Linz's academy. In 2007, when Kovačić was 13, the talented midfielder was spotted by scouts from several prominent European clubs including VfB Stuttgart, Ajax, Juventus and Bayern Munich, but his family opted to move to Zagreb instead where he joined Croatian giants' Dinamo Zagreb academy.
Kovačić suffered a serious injury in 2009 in which his leg was broken, but he returned to the pitch after a lengthy recovery on 31 May 2010, appearing in the last match of the Croatian U17 academy league, a 5–0 win against RNK Split U17s.[
The young midfielder started training with the club's senior squad under manager Vahid Halilhodžić four months later on 6 October 2010, but continued to appear for the club in academy league matches during October. Later that month it was reported by the local sports daily Sportske novosti that Arsenal's chief scout Steve Rowley had arrived in Zagreb to watch him perform in U17 matches against Cibalia and NK Zagreb.
Kovačić eventually had his professional league debut in the 2010–11 Prva HNL away match against Hrvatski Dragovoljac on 20 November 2010, in which he scored Dinamo's fourth goal in their 6–0 win. This made him the youngest debutant and goalscorer in the history of the league, at the age of 16 years and 198 days, breaking the record set only a week earlier by Dino Špehar who had scored for NK Osijek at the age of 16 years and 278 days on 13 November 2010.
He also appeared for the Croatian national team at various youth levels, debuting in May 2008 in a U15 friendly match against Slovakia.As of October 2010 he is a regular member of the Croatia U17 team. His fast development and huge talent drew comparisons with Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney by local sports pundits, and the Croatia under-17 manager Martin Novoselac reportedly said of Kovačić: "I haven't seen a youngster with so much talent since the days of Robert Prosinečki"