A principal element of unified description of strongly interacting matter within the effective theories corresponds to hadronization of chiral quark models and incorporation of the confinement mechanism into them, manifesting the switching between hadron and quark degrees of freedom. Such an approach is formulated based on a relativistic density-functional motivated by the string-flip model. Quasiparticle treatment of quarks provides their suppression due to the divergence of self-energy already at the mean-field level. Dynamical restoration of chiral symmetry is ensured by construction of the density functional. Beyond the mean field quark correlations in scalar and pseudoscalar channels are described within the Gaussian approximation. This explicitly introduces mesonic states into the model. Their contribution to the thermodynamic potential is analyzed within the Beth–Uhlenbeck framework. Modification of mesonic mass spectrum in the vicinity of (de)confinement is interpreted as the Mott transition.