The name of the Croatian national team’s vice-captain has been mentioned in the operation to bring Neymar back to the Camp Nou several times, and according to reports surfacing in the past few days, the midfielder is now open to the move after having vehemently rebuffed these reports.
Ivan Rakitic has been with Barcelona for the past five seasons after impressing with Sevilla in his three seasons with the Andalusian club. He was bought to provide midfield support in Xavi Hernandez’ final season with Barcelona, and quickly became an integral part of the team, as Barcelona won an unprecedented second treble. He even scored in the Champions League final in the 3-1 victory over Juventus, increasing his importance in the squad.
Rakitic has been a good servant of the club, averaging performances of 6.80 ratings according to stats website SofaScore in his five seasons thus far with the club while playing in several midfield positions. He spends the least time on the ball in the Barcelona team (along with Busquets) and possesses great stamina (rarely has fitness problems and averages the most minutes in the league) which makes him a good help for the club in defence. His technicality enables him dictate play in midfield and create chances for teammates after winning back possession, despite his lack of pace. He also gets into good scoring positions and is valuable in attack for the team, as he possesses good shooting and off-the-ball movement.
A man once described by Jose Mourinho as “one of the most underrated players in the world”, Rakitic’s has become the fan’s preferred scapegoat when Barcelona fail to impress in matches and now has become surplus to requirements in the club after the acquisition of Frenkie De Jong. But will Barcelona be losing irreplaceable quality if they let him go?
Let’s look at the statistics.
Rakitic is a balanced midfielder and shows a great tactical aptitude which implies strong positional discipline and adaptability, and this is why he became one of the first names on the team sheet at Barcelona.
This is how he compares to the other Barcelona midfielders on the team sheet this season.
Not one of these midfielders has better overall attributes than Rakitic. His attacking aptitude is second to Carles Alena who is the most attacking of the midfielders and makes up for being less technical than both Alena and Frenkie (who many believe was bought to replace Rakitic) by being the most tactical of the midfielders in Barcelona.
Arturo Vidal is 32 and is the only one who can match Rakitic’s stamina levels in the midfield, but there is no guaranteeing that he stays in Barcelona beyond this season. Frenkie, his touted replacement, has the quality but in a season of uncertainties, it will be a smarter decision to keep Rakitic for a few more years to allow Frenkie grow into his role.
Barcelona’s loss will be PSG’s gain if this deal pulls through and while the summer of 2019 brought nothing more than rumour, it’s almost certain that the parties involved will be revisiting this deal – either in the 2020 transfer window or at the end of the 2019/20 season.
After ten games of the new La Liga campaign, Barcelona are facing a challenge at the top of the table but it’s coming from an unlikely source. Lowly Granada are pushing the Catalan giants and have been talked about in terms of doing a ‘Leicester City’ and pulling off one of the greatest ever shocks in world football.
However, the smart money is on another league title for Barca and the majority of experts are predicting that the likes of Messi and Co will be lifting the domestic trophy at the end of the campaign. It is, however, tighter than Barca may have hoped with Granada, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla and Real Sociedad within three points of the league leaders. Would the addition of Neymar make things more comfortable in the second half of the season?
No Time to Switch
While there is plenty of talk concerning Ivan Rakitic’s departure in January, the idea of a swap deal involving Neymar appears to have gone for now. Inter Milan, Manchester United and Juventus are among the alternatives but if there is a certainty, it’s that the Croatian is surplus to requirements.
Of course, it’s not appropriate to compare the two players as Rakitic is a midfielder while Neymar’s job is to score goals. With a record approaching a goal a game in Ligue Un, it’s almost inevitable that Barca will be monitoring their former player but questions over whether the departure of Ivan Rakitic is a wise option will remain.