Kanoute: Sevilla face fight over Rakitic
TURIN -- Sevilla face an uphill task to keep hold of in-demand skipper Ivan Rakitic, according to the club's former striker Freddie Kanoute.
Rakitic's stock has risen dramatically this season as he has inspired Sevilla's resurgence at home and abroad, with the Croatia midfielder set to lead his team in this Wednesday's Europa League final against Benfica.
He insisted this January that he is "happy in Spain" but the likes of Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United are believed to be among the 26-year-old's admirers.
Kanoute, who left Seville in 2012 a year after Rakitic's arrival from Schalke, says that while he hopes the Andalusians keep their talisman, it would be understandable if the midfielder were allowed to leave.
"You cannot talk about Sevilla without talking about Ratikic," Kanoute told ESPN FC. "From the very first day I could see he had all the qualities to be a great player.
"He may not be super fast but he compensates with other qualities -- technically, with his vision of the game and his intelligence. He has brought his game to another level this season. It has been great watching him play.
"It may be difficult for Sevilla to keep him now. It's a big career choice for him I think. Some big clubs are sure to come in and sometimes there are offers that Sevilla can't refuse because they cannot afford to reject them.
"It depends on many things. It would be nice for Sevilla to hold onto him but it will be difficult."
Asked at the pregame news conference if he might be the hero of a Sevilla victory, meanwhile, Ratikic said the only important thing was that his side lifted the trophy.
"That does not matter to me," the midfielder said. "There is no need to talk about a hero. Mbia's goal [last-gasp semifinal winner at Valencia] would not have happened without the pass from Fazio. We all have our own importance.
"We want to play a perfect game, to enjoy it. They are all important for us. All the players we work to arrive at a final, it is the best thing for all of us, and now we just have to enjoy it to the maximum, and take whatever positives are there to be taken."