After several weeks of insistent rumours, Ivan Rakitic has been officially confirmed as Barcelona player.
Signing the 26-year-old Croatian international for a reported fee of 18 million euros (plus the loan of Barca B youngster Denis Suarez) is certainly a step in the right direction, considering the much needed rebuilding of the Blaugrana squad this summer.
Rakitic has landed at the Camp Nou after impressing with Sevilla over four remarkable seasons. His 15 goals and 18 assists in his final year at the Sanchez Pizjuan, together with his vision, versatility and strength, made him an obvious target for many major Spanish and European clubs. Despite strong interest from many of the Catalans' rivals, the Croatian playmaker chose to join the very exciting journey Barcelona are about to start, after one of the poorest seasons in recent history. The prospect of playing alongside Andres Iniesta was definitely a deciding factor, given his very public admiration for the World Cup winner.
The arrival of Rakitic responds to a direct demand of Luis Enrique, a coach who has identified the Croatian's freshness, leadership and hunger for success as vital qualities that the Barca dressing room could certainly do with, given the aging nature of its current members. The manager must be delighted to have landed one of the most promising yet experienced playmakers in the whole of La Liga.
Despite the fact that it will take Cules a considerable amount of time to assimilate the departure of Cesc Fabregas for a mere 33 million euros, the arrival of a replacement in such a short time is reassuring. Andoni Zubizarreta still has many crucial decisions to make in the next few weeks, and I sincerely hope -- for the benefit of the club as a whole -- he can continue to deliver quality, experienced players in the near future.
In Rakitic and Rafinha, Barcelona have now added two quality midfielders who have the potential to contribute to the evolution of Barcelona's traditional formation and mechanisms. With that in mind, the departure of 34-year-old Xavi Hernandez this summer is becoming a more likely scenario. Unfortunately, the Catalan legend isn't getting any younger and is finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the more physical dimension that the game of football seems to be leaning toward in recent time. The tiny maestro will have to decide whether to accept a secondary role within Luis Enrique's rotation or spend his remaining years as a professional earning a reported 8 million euros per season in Qatar.
Personally, I am excited to see how Rakitic's athleticism, intensity and discipline can enhance Barca's midfield. The unpredictable way he usually joins attacking positions from deep will instantly boost the team's goal-scoring threat (especially from long range). His ability to hold position and play the ball into opening gaps will benefit those players around him. Having become a key player in each and every one of the teams he has played for is certainly a sign of a fully committed, reliable professional.
The Quote: "Rakitic is a true professional, a hard worker with excellent skills. He won't have any problems to adapt to the Camp Nou. He is a fantastic player. He can play anywhere in midfield, whether it is as an attacking midfielder or wide winger" -- Robert Prosinecki, ex-Croatia and Barca midfielder.