Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Ivan Rakitic Opens Up about Status at Barcelona: "I Will Decide My Future"

April 14, 2020 - Croatia representative and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been training in the safety of his home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The famous footballer opened up to Spanish media about his uncertain future at the Catalan club. 

T.portal reports that, like many footballers around the world, Ivan Rakitic spends his days inside the four walls of his home until football returns to the currently-quarantined Spain. 

“I am spending this time as we all are, with family, my wife and children. Luckily we have some space in the garden so we can play. We’ve had a little luck and good weather, it's getting a little easier for us,” Rakitic revealed in an interview with RTL on Sunday.

“I have to train as much as I can to be ready because I don't know exactly when we'll be back. I also respect the decision of Bayern and a lot of German clubs who are back and if the situation can allow it, even better. It doesn't look like that for us yet. I think we will be stuck at home for a while, but for the benefit of all of us,” he added.

But in an extensive interview with Mundo Deportivo, in which he received the full cover, Ivan Rakitic spoke about his status at Barcelona, as there has been a lot of speculation about him moving to a new club, from Inter to PSG, Sevilla, and Atletico.

“For two years now, and especially during breaks between seasons and during this forced break because of the coronavirus, I have been writing and talking about my departure from Barcelona. I always responded to this as I will now; playing for Barcelona to me is perfection, the fulfillment of a dream. So I would like to play and enjoy it here until the end of  my contract and help win all the trophies. If that is not possible, we will sit down and arrange my departure. However, I want to work with Barcelona until the end.”

If Rakitic has to leave Barcelona, is Sevilla his priority?

“True, I have a special affection for Seville, but above all for the city, as I have my family there. I always said that it would be great to wear that shirt again, everyone knows that, but it is not only my decision that matters, whether I want it or not. There are many more things. Monchi (the sports director of Sevilla) and everyone in Seville has my phone number, they haven't called me yet, and I recently had a birthday, but even then they didn't remember me,” he said laughing.

Rakitic has always said that Barcelona is the best team in the world. 

“Everyone who knows me knows I always want to win. My goal is always to win and conquer everything. First, in training, then during the games and the trophies and that will never change. I see myself at my best, and I do my best. If I didn't have that desire, I would do things differently, but I feel better than ever and see that I will compete at the highest level for the next three or four years,”

Barcelona offered Rakitic the chance to leave last summer, but now, because of the coronavirus pandemic, such transfers may no longer be feasible. Does Rakitic see himself as a player in other leagues, such as Italy or England, or would he rather stay in Spain?

“I understand the situation, but I'm not a sack of potatoes that could be traded. You can always talk to me, but most importantly: I want to be where I will be loved, respected and needed and where both myself and my family feel good. If it’s going to be in Barcelona, I’ll be thrilled. If not, I'll go where I choose and not where others want. I do not allow this kind of behavior towards me and I have already told them that is the most important thing.” 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

Luka Modric v. Ivan Rakitic: Croatian El Clasico Returns Tonight

March 1, 2020 - Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will meet for the 18th time in El Classico tonight, to be played at 9 pm at Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid.

It was March 2019, exactly a year ago. Barcelona won at the Bernabeu and Ivan Rakitic scored the only goal of the game, reports 24 Sata.

“Setien, don't forget about Raketa, he knows how to mess with Real,” read the headlines of Spanish media ahead of El Clasico on Sunday night.

And this is not by accident. Apart from the fact that Rakitic scored Barcelona's last goal against Madrid, and it has been exactly one year since then, but he has scored four goals in his career against Real Madrid. The only club he has scored more against is Real Betis, recording five goals total. Rakitic is gaining momentum once again, and has started for Barcelona in the last two games, against Eibar and Napoli. All signs lead to him starting again against Real Madrid tonight.

The 'Croatian El Clasico' returns for its 18th episode. 

The first collision of Rakitic and Modric was in September 2012. Then, Rakitic was a star in Seville, while Luka Modric was going through tough times at Real Madrid. In that match, Luka came off the bench for Mesut Özil. Sevilla won 1:0, and Rakitic and Modric exchanged jerseys. Since then, they have played against each other 17 times - Rakitic celebrated nine times, four games ended in a draw, and Modric won four times.

If we were to compare the two players in La Liga this year, then Luka is more successful. Modric started in 13 games this season, playing an average of 63 minutes per game and scoring three goals. Rakitic, on the other hand, has not scored a single goal this season, has started only in nine games, and is playing 46 minutes per game.

The match tonight is a massive step towards the La Liga title. If Barcelona wins, they will be five points ahead and push Real Madrid into even bigger problems, potentially resulting in a Zinedine Zidane sacking. 

Thus, the story of Ivan and Luka continues. The story of two friends, whose intertwined football journey began in September 2007, when Croatia beat Estonia 2:0.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Friday, 14 February 2020

Ivan Rakitic: "I Would Rather Win Euros with Croatia than Champions League"

February 14, 2020 - Ivan Rakitic, Barcelona midfielder and member of the Croatia national team, said during a Bleacher Report interview that he hopes he can become European champions with Croatia and that the team has a good future because of its young players.

When asked if he thought Croatia could continue to succeed when the golden generation (Rakitic, Modric, Perisic) step down, Rakitic replied:

“We hope so, there are a lot of young really good guys and hopefully the guys can do it better than the generation.”

When asked if he would prefer the Euros or the Champions League title this year, Rakitic didn’t hesitate.

“I prefer the Euros because I've already won the Champions League and would love to win the Euros with Croatia.”

Rakitic, who won the Champions League with Barcelona in 2015, received new coach Quique Setien last month, replacing Ernest Valverde, who has been coaching the Croatian midfielder since the summer of 2017.

"It is impossible to compare them," he said without explanation.

Rakitic still regrets that he lost the World Cup final 2:4 to France in 2018, saying that he would replace winning the Champions League with the World Cup title.

“In every station there are special people, I would change it for sure as there are plenty of opportunities to win a Champions League but it is difficult for a World Cup.”

He said that the World Cup in Russia changed him.

“It changed a lot, to have an experience where we were there until the last day, to lose it was really hard. To feel the love from the whole world was really special for us and I will never forget it for sure.”

Barcelona sports director Eric Abidal said this month in an interview with Catalan Sport that Rakitic had talked to Juventus but not Barcelona, and that the Catalan club had not received any offers from Turin. Juventus Sports Director told Sky Sports in November that "Rakitic is a great player" but that they do not intend to bring him in because they have a good and well-placed team. Asked if he would like to play with Cristiano Ronaldo, Rakitic replied:

“Of course I would like he is also one of the biggest players in history, you really enjoy watching him and you see now what he's doing at Juventus and for me is one of the best players in history.”

Rakitic will turn 32 in March and has a contract with Barcelona until the summer of 2021. Portuguese coach José Mourinho once said that Rakitic is the most underrated football player in the world. But who does Rakitic think is the most underrated in the world?

“There are a lot, Jose Mourinho told it was me haha and he was right (joking) there are a lot of players in this way and I think there are a lot. For me though [Miralem] Pjanic.”

He would like to play with Brazilian striker Neymar once again, a player he shared a dressing room with until the summer of 2017.

“First of all I would like to have Neymar in my team for sure, he needs to decide what's best for him as he's my big friend and I want to see him happy and for sure when he is happy he is one of the best players in the world.”

For him, however, the best player is Barcelona captain Lionel Messi - the GOAT.

“Yes just amazing to play with him and I think it's really special and if he is the GOAT, I think in every moment there were special players, for sure he was the best player in the last 15 year and in my opinion he is the best of all time and I think for me to play with him on the left side for the last six years was amazing.”

Rakitic went on to name Robert Prosinecki as his favorite player and Eminem as his favorite rapper. He loves the Barcelona kits this season "because they fit the kits of Croatia". 

His favorite goal is his first for Basel, Switzerland - a left volley. The most entertaining player he played with is Brazilian Dani Alves, and the best defender is current teammate Gerard Pique. His favorite stadium besides Camp Nou is his Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, the Sevilla stadium where he played from January 2011 to June 2014, and where he was the team captain. 

You can see the full interview on Bleacher Report.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Ivan Rakitic Opens Up About Tough Time at Barcelona

November 13, 2019 - Croatia national team player Ivan Rakitic opened up about the tough times at Barcelona and losing his place in the starting lineup after five years at the club.

“They took my ball. I am sad," he said in an interview that will be released Thursday on Spanish TV Movistar. 

Coach Ernesto Valverde has left Rakitic on the bench in his last two championship games against Levante and Celta Vigo. He has appeared in ten games this season, playing just 255 minutes, which is the least by minute among Barcelona's seven midfielders.

“I understand and respect the decisions of the coach, the club, or anyone. I have given a lot during these five years at Barcelona and I want to continue to enjoy it. I'm 31, not 38, so I feel I'm at my best,” said Rakitic.

He said he was hit emotionally by being losing his place in the squad because he had been a member of the starting line-up since joining the club.

“How does my younger daughter feel when you take away her toy? She's sad. I feel the same way. They took my ball away, so I'm sad,” said the Croatian midfielder.

Rakitic has been Barcelona's most used player since Ernesto Valverde took over the team in the summer of 2017, and has won the Spanish Championship twice during those two seasons. But since the start of this season, Rakitic has only been in the starting lineup once -  and Valverde didn’t even include him in the player list for one of the games. 

“I like to show my feelings. When you need to cry, that is okay. When I need to celebrate, I celebrate, like winning the silver medal with Croatia at the 2018 World Cup,” he noted.

Valverde said last month that he had more midfielders this season than in previous seasons, and the Barcelona administration has not yet revealed anything about the situation with Rakitic, who has a contract until the summer of 2021.

Last summer, Barcelona brought in 22-year-old midfielder Frankie de Jong from Ajax for €75 million, who has played the most minutes among the midfielders in 16 games so far.

Rakitic returned to Barcelona from Zagreb on Monday after attending the national team reunion. Doctors of the Croatia national team examined him and found that due to pain in his Achilles tendon, he could not play against Slovakia in the last qualifying match for the European Championships on Saturday. A source close to Rakitic said that he traveled from Barcelona to Zagreb with the pain already. 

After returning to the club, he was examined by Barcelona doctors on Tuesday, who confirmed the issue with his Achilles tendon. It is not yet known when he will be back on the pitch. 

Rakitic practiced separately from teammates at Barcelona's camp on Tuesday and was not included in the player list for a humanitarian friendly match that Barcelona will play on Wednesday in the southern city of Cartagena.

Translated from HRT

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page. 

Monday, 11 November 2019

Zlatko Dalic: Rakitic Potentially Ruled Out against Slovakia Due to Injury

November 11, 2019 - Croatia national team coach Zlatko Dalic announced the upcoming Euro qualifier against Slovakia.

The Croatia national team plays their final match for a spot in the Euro 2020 this Saturday. Croatia and Slovakia meet at 20:45 in Rijeka.

The national team gathered in Zagreb on Monday, followed by a trip to Opatija, which will be the team’s base until Saturday. Coach Zlatko Dalic has activated call ups Marko Rog and Josip Juranovic.

"We await the decisive match for the European Championships. We got them in Slovakia, but we should not be fooled by that match, because this will be one completely different. At the beginning of qualifications, we said that 15 points would be enough and so it is. But, no we are going to get a point, we are going to win. We are missing stoppers and we are looking for solutions there,” Dalic said at the beginning of his address to the media.

Shortly before the press conference, news arrived that Ivan Rakitic would most likely be unable to play due to injury. This time, his tendons are inflamed, which should result in about a week of rest. Rakitic did arrive in Zagreb and will be examined by national team doctors.

"Kramaric is coming, but he is returning to his club. Matej Mitrovic felt some problem at training. If the situation is questionable, we will not risk it. Ivan Rakitic felt something in his Achilles tendon, so we will take a look and if there is a problem, he will return to Barcelona. If Mitrovic doesn't play, then the options for the backs are Juranovic, Bartolec and Jedvaj.”

What does Dalic expect from Slovakia?

“Slovakia has the strongest midfield. Lobotka Hamsik, and Kucka. They play all the time, they are in shape, and we are expecting a big fight in the middle of the pitch. We have to stop Lobotka from organizing the game. It's risky, and we punished them in Slovakia, so I believe they won’t open completely this time. Our last line concerns me a little. We have to attack high, not defend."

Source: Index.hr

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Once Irreplaceable, Now Undesired: Ivan Rakitic Nearing End at Barcelona

October 15, 2019 - Once an irreplaceable Barcelona midfielder has become written off, unwanted, and deceived in the span of a few months. Is Ivan Rakitic finally on his way out of the Catalan club?

However, Index.hr writes that the thirty-one-year-old Ivan Rakitic did not give up without a fight and refused to leave his beloved Barcelona this summer. But after he found himself as part of the starting eleven only once this season so far, he’s realized that after five and a half years, he'd have to consider leaving the club where he wanted to end his career.

Rakitic is hurting the most from Barcelona's mind games. In the summer of 2018, PSG handed him an unbelievable offer, but coach Ernesto Valverde ultimately demanded his stay, noting that Rakitic was irreplaceable to him. Barcelona president Bartomeu agreed, adding that he would offer the key midfielder a new, improved, "lifelong" contract. Following these guarantees, Rakitic was convinced that he would remain at Barcelona as one of the untouchable players. 

But earlier this year, the situation radically changed for the worse when Barcelona purchased Frenkie De Jong. The fantastic Dutchman, who is nine years younger than Rakitic, was called the 'future of Barcelona' and football in general. Barcelona brought the young midfielder over from Ajax for 75 million euro. It was a clear signal to Rakitic that he was no longer a key player for the club, though he refused to accept it.

With Jong's arrival this summer, Rakitic has been degraded among the reserves. The rejuvenation of Barcelona is a strategic project decided by the management - and Rakitic was its first victim.

Having struggled fiercely this summer to convince the club that he still has a place in Barcelona, Rakitic has now understood the message and, as Marca writes, began looking for a new club himself. Manchester United and Juventus are interested in the Croatian midfielder, and while he still has two years left of his contract at Barcelona, due to his great merits, the club won’t give him trouble leaving as early as the winter deadline, nor will it set too high of an asking price. 

Rakitic came to Barcelona in the summer of 2014 from Sevilla for 18 million euro. Since then, he has played 274 games for Barcelona, scoring 34 goals and assisting 37. He has won four La Liga titles and the King Cup, one Champions League and one Club World Cup. 

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Ivan Rakitic in Split: My Heart Beats for Croatia

October 8, 2019 - Croatia and Hungary will meet at Poljud on Thursday at 8:45 pm in a crucial qualifier for the European Championship next summer. Ivan Rakitic spoke to the media on Tuesday from the Le Meridien Lav Hotel in Split. 

Headlines in Croatian media this week will focus heavily on a critical meeting of our 2018 World Cup finalists - Croatia will meet Hungary on Thursday in Split. And while Croatia's fate in the 2020 Euro competition lay heavily on the result itself, the match also carries more significance - it is the first time the Croatia national team has played in Split since 2015. 

Ivan Rakitic re-joined the team after he was absent from the lineup for Croatia's qualifiers in September, naming his alarming situation at Barcelona at the time as the reason. On Tuesday, he faced the Croatian media at the Le Meridien Lav Hotel in Split, the home of the Croatia national team for the week. 

"I am very happy to play in Split. My best friends are here. I am happy to be with the team and staff again. The stadium sold out in a day; we await a full stadium of our fans."

Why did Rakitic opt out of the national team in September?

For me, the national team is always first, but the situation in my club wasn't right. I needed to come to the national team with a clear head to give my all, and at that time, I wasn't at my best. I thank everyone for understanding. Luka gave me his support. It was a tough decision for me." 

How was it to watch Croatia play so well against Slovakia?

"I was so happy to see how well we played. We were fantastic. The coach said it was the best game under his leadership. I think we can be even better.” 

Rakitic touched on the two big games ahead against Hungary and Wales. 

"We know the games ahead will be difficult. We lost to Hungary away. But I can't wait for the atmosphere, the fans, the full stadium. If we get 6 points, that is the best-case scenario. But we have to go step by step. First is Hungary."

What does Rakitic think about bringing the national team back to Split? 

"We will give our all. We know that Dalmatia wants the national team here. And we as a national team want to play everywhere.

We know that the people wanted the national team in Split. We could see that with how quickly the stadium sold out. Something extraordinary awaits us on Thursday. We are the World Cup finalists. We are going together for the win." 

What does Rakitic have to say about the media speculation that he didn't want to play for the national team?

"Everyone has their opinion and their right, but no one has a bigger love of playing for Croatia than me. Switzerland gave me everything, but my heart beats for Croatia. I’ve been with the team 12, 13 years. I felt that way yesterday, today, and will feel that way forever. Croatia is number one.”

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page


Monday, 2 September 2019

Zlatko Dalic: No Rakitic for Upcoming Euro Qualifiers

September 2, 2019 - The Croatia football team gathers in Zagreb on Monday ahead of qualifying matches against Slovakia and Azerbaijan for the 2020 European Championships. Zlatko Dalic addressed the press before the upcoming games, reports Gol.hr.

“Two tough matches await us, two tough away games where we will try to get a good result, and a good result will require good concentration, quality and knowledge. We will have to put forth a lot of effort and energy to get back points,” said Dalic at the beginning and also revealed team changes.

“Yesterday I spoke with Ivan Rakitic who still has not resolved his status at his club, and we have concluded that he is not ready or focused on the national team, that he cannot give his maximum that we need and he will not join us. Instead, we called up Marko Rog,” Dalic said.

Could this mean Ivan is nearing his end on the national team?

''I have no need or time to think about Ivan Rakitic. We must now focus on those who are here, and I do not have any fear of going on without him. We have Vlasic and Brekalo, players who are coming, who are full of will and ambition,” Dalic added.

“Mateo Kovacic had a medical review this morning, so we will see what the situation is with him. We have these small problems, but I am optimistic. I believe in these players who are here, and I have no doubt that we will be of good quality,” explained the coach. 

What is the condition of the players, are they happy at their clubs?

''Some are happy, some are not. Some are still working on it. The problem is that a lot of our players have had indications, it is a long transition period, there are a lot of questions, and that takes away concentration and focus. We'll have some problems on that side, but it's a normal thing, it happens every day, and I won't cry and complain."

Luka Modric isn't in his best form, either.

"I always had the least problems with Modric, he always gave his best, he is the captain of the team, and I really don't have to think much about him."

The national team will train in Zagreb until Wednesday before traveling to Trnava where they will play the first of the two Group E matches on September 6.

After three games played in the qualifications thus far, Zlatko Dalic's side is third on the table with six points, the same amount as second-placed Slovakia. In first place is Hungary with nine points, though they have also played one game more.

After Slovakia, Croatia will visit Baku to play Azerbaijan on September 9.

For the remainder of the qualifications, Croatia will meet Hungary on October 10 at Poljud, Wales in Cardiff on October 13, and Slovakia in Rijeka on November 16.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Ivan Rakitić 'At The Limit', According to Latest FIFPro Report

August 11, 2019 - Croatia national team representative and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitić has been named as a player who has participated in an excessive number of matches, which could affect his health, the International Federation of Professional Footballers warned.

Namely, FIFPro, a worldwide union of football players based in the Netherlands, has published a report titled ‘At The Limit’, which warns that clubs are exhausting their players, says HRT.

Some of them have played nearly 80 games in a season, racking up over 100,000 kilometers traveling with their clubs and national teams. The union surveyed 500 elite football players, and cited the 31-year-old Barcelona and Croatia midfielder as a prime example of someone who is ‘at the limit’.

Since his arrival in Barcelona in 2014, Rakitić has been a standard member of the star-studded line-up and has also been a star for the Croatia national team. Last season, Rakitić played 68 games between May 25, 2018, and June 13, 2019. Of these, 14 were with the national team with which he traveled 30,000 kilometers.

FIFPro warns that Rakitic has played 72 percent of his matches without respecting the five-day break between them. A five-day break between games is a necessary period to avoid health problems in the short and long term.

Rakitić, along with midfielder Sergio Busquets, was last year's player with the most appearances for Spanish champion Barcelona after returning from the World Cup where he made it to the final with Croatia. Asked about his number of games in November after a match between Rayo Vallecano and Barcelona in Madrid, he laughed and said:

“You have to have strength.”

Increasingly competitive leagues and international tournaments are causing players to have shorter periods of rest every day, FIFPro warns. In some cases, footballers have less than two weeks of summer vacation. The physical and psychological exhaustion of players is becoming more pronounced, they added.

Heung-Min Son (Tottenham, South Korea), Lasse Schöne (Ajax, Denmark), Alisson Becker (Liverpool, Brazil) and Sadio Mané (Liverpool, Senegal) are also on the list of players with the highest number of matches played.

FIFPro recommends that at the end of the season, players should have a 4-week holiday and two weeks off during the winter. It is necessary to limit the number of times a footballer plays consecutively for a period of fewer than five days. Five days is the golden period between two matches played to avoid injuries and health problems.

Furthermore, it is necessary to consider introducing the maximum number of matches a footballer can play in a season in order to preserve his health and performance. In addition, an early alert system should be introduced to monitor the players' workloads and help them plan their performances.

To meet the demands of the match calendar, players are often asked to push their limits, without enough rest and refreshment, said Theo van Seggelen, Secretary-General of FIFPro.

This means that they cannot provide maximum impact, but even worse, players face periods of great mental and physical tension. Scientific research has confirmed that the health of top-level footballers is in jeopardy due to the current tight schedule and number of matches.

Van Seggelen called on all participants of football competitions to jointly establish a mechanism that would reduce pressure on players and preserve their health, career, and play as such.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Remembering World Cup: Ivan Rakitić Declares Day of Unity, Pride, and Happiness in Croatia

July 10, 2019 - For Croatians, July 16, 2018, is a date that is saved in our memory bank for a lifetime. One year later, the unity, pride, and happiness experienced in Croatia then will be recreated. 

Like yesterday, we remember Croatia’s outstanding World Cup in Russia, which secured them a spot in history books after they came home with the silver medal. 

“There is no better feeling than being a Croat. This is a historic match for us, not just for the 22 of us here, but for the whole country. Tomorrow, we will have 4.5 million on the pitch,” said Ivan Rakitić before the big final last year to 24 Sata

But even before that last game in Russia, Croatia already won the hearts of football fans around the world, whether they had Croatian blood or not. Win or lose, the only way the fans could show their appreciation was with a spectacular welcome on July 16, 2018,after an incredible World Cup campaign in Russia. More than half a million people ran to the streets of Zagreb and waited more than five hours for the team bus to make it from the airport to Ban Jelačić square, which was followed by a series of ‘welcome home’ parties across the country in the weeks after. 

But it has been one year since the summer of a lifetime; one year since Zlatko Dalić and his team met France in the final on July 15th, and one year since Croatians near and far pushed to the streets to show their pride. 

Thus, Ivan Rakitić is urging Croatians to remember the summer of a lifetime, awaken the red and white checkers in their heart, and get out on the streets of Croatia once again to remember this pertinent date in Croatian history. 

“On July 16, everyone put on your checkers and head out to the streets. Let’s celebrate the day of unity, pride, and happiness. Croatia is full of life, let's show it,” Rakitić said in a video he posted on his Instagram.

Zlatko Dalić and Lovre Kalinić also invited Croatians to take part in the new celebration. 

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

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