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Barcelona icon on playing with Messi, Neymar, Suarez – ‘They couldn’t have done it without the support’

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Photo by Yasser Bakhsh/Getty Images

Barcelona’s midfield has had the honour of harbouring an array of talented players over the years.

But one that often slips under the radar is Ivan Rakitic, who contributed considerably in his 310 games for the Catalan giants.

The Croatian was recently inducted into Barcelona’s ‘Legends’ list, as he is recognized as one of the key architects behind the team’s successes during his tenure.

Now, Rakitic has opened up about several topics related to Barça on the ARLS podcast.

Playing with the best

Rakitic made an early impression under Luis Enrique by phasing out Xavi Hernandez from the starting XI in the 2014/2015 season.

The 36-year-old proved to be a versatile operator and offered a different profile to the options Barcelona already possessed, which allowed the team to strike a balance in midfield.

“When I joined Barcelona, I knew that I would play with Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets. I knew that I had to change my playing style,” Rakitic acknowledged.

While Barcelona’s midfield was no slouch, it was the team’s attack that often stole the spotlight.

Rakitic remarked that playing alongside the formidable trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar Jr. was an incredible experience.

But he emphasized that their success was made possible by the stability provided by defensive and midfield support.

“Of course, I can say that I enjoyed playing with Messi, Neymar and Suarez. Hopefully, they say that they enjoyed playing with Rakitic too.

“They scored 100 goals per season, but they couldn’t have done it without the support at the back,” Rakitic stated.

Rakitic was part of an iconic Barcelona team. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

How his signing came about

The Croatian midfielder admitted his signing transpired smoothly before the 2014 World Cup and was completed in a matter of just three days.

“Before the World Cup in Brazil, Barcelona contacted me. It was Zubizarreta who spoke to me, then Luis Enrique. We completed the signing in three days,” he claimed.

The high standards set at Barcelona

While Barcelona are yet to taste European success, fans fondly reminisce about the 2015 Champions League win. Rakitic confessed it was an iconic season.

“I think we had the best season in Champions League history. We beat the French, English, German, and then the Italian champions in the final,” he exclaimed.

He added that, in addition to winning, playing well was a crucial pre-requisite at Barcelona.

“In one of my first matches for Barcelona, we won 6-0 and I scored a goal. The first question in the post-match interview was that we did not play well.

“That’s when I knew that just winning is not enough at Barça. They want to win and play well,” Rakitic said.

Barcelona’s Champions League woes

Touching upon the harrowing defeats Barcelona suffered at the hands of AS Roma and Liverpool in 2018 and 2019, Rakitic said one of the reasons Barça failed is because they lost the hunger to keep winning.

“We lost the Champions League in 2018 and 2019 by ourselves. The opponents deserved it of course, but it felt like we didn’t try enough.

Perhaps we were bored of winning. When you win so much, you lose focus, you don’t pay attention to the details,” the midfielder remarked.

When asked if pressure is one of the reasons that Barcelona have not won the Champions League since 2015, Rakitic answered:

“Yes. And there’s additional pressure because Real Madrid has won it a lot.”

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