When Ivan Rakitic’s signing was announced by Barcelona in June 2014, it caught many on the hop. A squad boasting Busquets, Cesc, Iniesta, Mascherano and Xavi could hardly get any better. It was also assumed that the club would finally address their defence and strengthen their main weakness. However, in August 2014 it was announced that Cesc would be leaving and joining Chelsea; Rakitic’s path to the first team had suddenly become more straightforward.
However, it is not always that simple as Cesc found out. Having rejoined from Arsenal his initial displays were tremendous and the move appeared relatively seamless. Following a few injury problems, he subsequently struggled to command a place in the first team and frustration became the abiding memory of his final few months.
Despite being viewed as the natural successor to Xavi, he lacks the positional discipline needed to fulfil the role; Rakitic was identified as a player who could improve the team and thus he was purchased.
It is one thing getting into the team at Barcelona, but it is a completely different thing to remain there. The demands placed upon the players are gigantic and following a successful spell the success or failure in attempting to repeat the feat ultimately decides their fate. Fortunately for the Croatian, his rise to prominence at Sevilla was not a brief flicker of talent but more a realisation and sign of growing confidence.
He has progressed steadily throughout his career and has gained valuable experience of domestic football in several leagues as well as over 50 appearances in European competition. At 27, he is at the right age to take on the responsibility from Xavi and has the passing range to dictate games once he is more accustomed to the Barcelona style.
From his first few games at his new club, the move seemed a good one. He contributed during Barcelona’s indifferent start to the season and began to look more accustomed to his new surroundings.
Blessed with the ability to pick a pass with varying methods of executing it he is able to retain possession and provide the accuracy when needed. With the arrival of Suarez too in the summer to form an attacking trio of Messi, Neymar and the Uruguayan his passing options are amongst, if not the best in Europe.
His recent displays have indicated that his adaptation into his new surroundings have gone exceedingly well. The way he controlled the tempo of the game against PSG in both legs of the quarter final showed a player full of confidence and at the top of his game.
With the club still competing on all three fronts, the final few weeks of the season promise much. It is at this point that the winners emerge and as well as usually being the most in form of the top sides they are more often than not the best teams too.
Rakitic has still not even been at Barcelona for a year, but his transition thus far has been impressive.
Written by Andy Hunter
Follow Andy on Twitter @hunter67980
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