BARCELONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 27: Ivan Rakitic of Barcelona controls the ball during the UEFA … [+]
In interviews with local press during the international break, director of football Eric Abidal revealed that Ivan Rakitic had been warned, in 2019/2020, he would face reduced playing time at FC Barcelona.
Formerly a staple under both Luis Enrique and his successor Ernesto Valverde, while clocking up over well over 4000 minutes a season, the Croat had, when his teammates returning from playing for their national teams last week, accumulated just 255 pf them across 16 games in all competitions for the Blaugrana this term.
Brought on for half an hour at the end of Saturday’s unflattering 1-2 win at bottom-ranked Leganes, it was no shock the World Cup finalist made the bench for Wednesday’s clash with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, but a great surprise that he got the nod to start the Group F decider.
Though the headlines rightfully went to Lionel Messi for his two assists and a goal in his 700th club appearance, Rakitic put in a solid performance during the 3-1 win.
While it would be remiss not to mention an early hiccup whereby an awry pass almost allowed Dortmund to take a lead in the first minute, Rakitic was commended for ‘overcoming’ the error, which SPORT claimed ‘only someone with a lot of personality is capable’ of doing.
A separate piece by Juan Manuel Diaz in the daily newspaper stated that the 32-year-old took advantage of the opportunity to stake his claim to a place in Valverde’s usual three man midfield, which had once been a gimme.
‘Before Borussia he showed his quality and solvency of always next to Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong,’ wrote Diaz. ‘With those three managing the engine room, Barça had tactical order, solidity and a [brand of] football far superior to those offered in previous games.’
‘The Croatian midfielder brings tactical intelligence, touch, and associative and sacrificial capacity in equal parts,’ Diaz later continued. ‘Most importantly, he demonstrated that in addition to playing [off] by heart with Sergio Busquets, with whom he has travelled many kilometers, he mixes very well with De Jong , who in addition to touch and vision of the game provides dynamism and physical deployment.’
These developments should be a particular concern for Brazilian star Arthur. Cut entirely for the squad that made its way to Butarque, his name returned to the 19-man shortlist yesterday and was expected to find its way to the final XI alongside De Jong, who has generally been keeping Rakitic out of first team plans, and Busquets.
On the contrary however, it seems that Valverde has now found a way to incorporate both Rakitic and De Jong simultaneously with the former’s ‘great performance’, according to ElDesmarque, guaranteeing a starting berth against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda on Sunday.
Back with SPORT, an ongoing poll run by the Catalan media giant is at the time of publishing swung 70-30 in favour of reconsidering Rakitic’s purported sale out of the club in January.
Juventus apparently no longer interested, Rakitic, applauded on and off the Camp Nou pitch the seldom occasions he has stepped onto it lately, is evidently still a fan favourite and is now seeping his way back into his coach’s best-laid plans too.