Ivan Rakitic’s days are numbered at the Camp Nou.
Referred to as a “luxury substitute” for FC Barcelona coach Quique Setien by SPORT’s director Ernest Folch, the Croat has fallen down the midfield pecking order and is now surplus to requirements.
This has mainly been down to the emergences of Arthur and Frenkie de Jong in the past two summers. Bought in 2018 and 2019 respectively, the youngsters are seen as the future of the Blaugrana’s second line while veteran Sergio Busquets provides support as pivot.
Once an integral part of the Catalans’ plans, and a key member of the 2015 treble-winning squad that even scored in the Champions League final against Juventus in Berlin that year, Father Time is also catching up with the 32-year-old.
At the same moment that Arthur joined from Gremio, Barça could have cashed in on Rakitic when his stock was at its highest point. A World Cup finalist for his parents’ country of birth in Russia, the likes of PSG came to the table with offers approaching $100mn that should have been accepted.
Yet Ernesto Valverde wanted to keep him on the books, as FCB won their second consecutive La Liga title under the fired coach, before 2019/2020 saw De Jong become part of the furniture.
Towards the end of Valverde’s tenure heading into the new decade, a pubis niggle suffered by Arthur meant that Rakitic was able to form a worthy partnership with the Dutchman. Yet under the new tactician, Setien, the number 4 has not taken starting opportunities granted to him and has been poor in displays such as that put on in the UCL last 16 first leg against Napoli.
A postponement to all soccer action has afforded Rakitic more time to make a decision, with SPORT claiming he is already aware of his fate. His wife from the city where he made his name in Spain, Seville, there is a strong desire to return to play for Sevilla with his young family.
Barça are sensitive to this, but their precarious financial situation brought on by the outbreak of COVID-19 and the effect it has had on the Andalusians too means Rakitic will simply go to the highest bidder.
As much cash as possible needs to be raised to strike deals for Neymar and Lautaro Martinez, with the latter’s current club Inter Milan a possible destination alongside cross-city rivals AC Milan and Juventus. While back in Spain, Atletico Madrid’s interest is known but no approach has been forthcoming from Diego Simeone’s men.
Wherever he may end up, Rakitic’s time is winding down in Catalonia and a new era is dawning.