Real Madrid will not entertain any new offers for Mateo Kovacic in January according to director general Jose Angel Sanchez, who has confirmed speculation that Tottenham Hotspur were among the clubs to table an official bid for the Croatian midfielder during the previous transfer window.
Kovacic has struggled to establish himself as a regular starter since joining Los Blancos from Inter Milan in a £22.5m ($30.2m) deal in 2015 amid stern competition from compatriot Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro and his future was once again subject to fervent speculation during the early stages of the summer, particularly after the reigning European champions signed Dani Ceballos from Real Betis.
Long-term suitors Tottenham, hoping to beat the likes of Inter, Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli to his signature, were said to have been alerted to the possibility of a sale and Spanish publication Diario AS subsequently reported that they had seen an offer worth €25m (£22m) rebuffed.
Whether Spurs plan to reignite that pursuit in the New Year remains to be seen, but it appears that Real remain defiant in their stance that Kovacic is simply not available for any price as he works his way back from injury.
"Kovacic is not for sale, we will never sell him" Sanchez told Croatian sports daily Sportske Novosti, per Goal. "If there are any offers for him in January, we will reject them. Last summer there were a lot of offers and questions about him.
"Juventus and AC Milan didn't send offers, but Inter must have sent one. There was one from England, it was Tottenham."
Kovacic started both of Real's Spanish Super Cup victories over fierce rivals Barcelona in August and recovered from an initial injury to appear as a substitute in early La Liga matches against Valencia and Levante before being forced off in the first half of a Champions League Group H tie against Cypriot champions Apoel Nicosia.
Scans later revealed a torn large tendon in his right adductor muscle and the 23-year-old missed more than two months of action before finally making his return on Tuesday night (28 November) by playing all but 10 minutes of a 2-2 Copa del Rey last-32 second-leg draw against Fuenlabrada.
Speaking after watching his second-string side fail to beat third-tier opposition on home turf at the Santiago Bernabeu, head coach Zinedine Zidane expressed his delight at having Kovacic, first-choice goalkeeper Keylor Navas and injury-plagued forward Gareth Bale back in contention at last ahead of a potentially difficult four-match stretch that culminates in the first league Clasico of 2017-18 on 23 December.
The latter, who had also missed two months after his recovery from a lingering calf complaint was delayed by a thigh issue, came off the bench to provide two assists after Real had been trailing at the hour mark.
"I'm so happy for Gareth, Keylor and Mateo because they've been out for a while," he said. "They're key players and seeing that they're ready for these next games makes me happy."