June 6, 2020 – Ivan Rakitic opens up about how he feels at Barcelona and whether we will watch him in the Croatia jersey at the Euros next year.
On this day five years ago, Ivan Rakitic lived some of the most beautiful moments of his football career. Namely, in the Berlin final of the Champions League, he scored the first goal in the 3:1 victory against Juventus, which was the crown of an excellent first season with the Catalan giant.
The 32-year-old Croatia national team member and assistant captain who has already collected 106 appearances and 15 goals, just like all football players in Spain, is counting down the days until the season continues.
During intense training, Ivan Raktitic found the time to sit down with T.portal to talk about everything going on in the famous footballer’s world today.
First and foremost, football is back. How hard was it to keep fit in home isolation and then come to workouts, where there was to be no physical contact?
“It was hard; it was hard. At least, we all know we are in the same situation. It was especially difficult in the first 15, 20 days, because you had to find motivation, go to the gym, run, ride a bike. It was hard to motivate yourself when you were cut off, without a teammate. But I think I can say that I made great use of this time, I worked a lot, I feel fantastic and I feel it was maybe the best training in the past few years,” he said at the beginning of the interview.
Despite all the problems due to isolation, did you make good use of your time with your daughters and wife?
“Yes, of course, because otherwise we players travel a lot, so we made the most of this time to have some fun, to be together. Although there were difficult and unpleasant days. Because for more than two months, we were not allowed to leave the house at all. Still, we hung out even more with the kids, and to me, it’s always a pleasure.”
We know you speak Spanish, but did you perhaps teach your wife and daughters Croatian?
“My wife even speaks Croatian quite well, and she more or less understands everything. Especially when our famous society is together, when she relaxes, then she speaks. And the kids a little less, because they go to a French school, where they learn both French and English and German. Of course, Spanish is their first language, but they also know a lot of Croatian words.”
You took them to Croatia, but were your daughters in Möhlin, Switzerland, where you lived as a child?
“They have been to Croatia several times already; I wanted to show them all the beauties of Lijepa Naša. We haven’t been to Switzerland in a while, but we talked about it recently and when the opportunity arises, we would like to go again, to show them a lot of things because Switzerland also has a lot of beautiful places, completely different from those in Spain.”
On this day five years ago, you scored a goal in the Champions League final in Berlin, in a 3:1 victory against Juventus. It was a magical end to the first season at the big club. This is probably one of your favorite goals in your career.
“Both that year and the year before, when I reached the Europa League title with Sevilla, were special. With that game and that goal, I put an end to a really great period. That trophy was something amazing and of course, I am extremely proud of that goal. But God willing, more games in the Champions League will be played this season, so let’s try to reach that title again.”
Unfortunately, five years later, the situation around your status at the club is not clear. We know you would like to stay, but what does the club think?
“More or less, since I’ve been here, the same situation is always presented and my status is talked about. Now everything is clear to me, because ten, fifteen days ago we talked very specifically in the club and the agreement is that we have nothing to talk about – I have a contract (until the summer of 2022) with Barcelona, and it is a club where I want to be and play. Also, I am in Barcelona with my wife and kids and it’s nice to live here, so I have no reason to think about other things. I’ve been training well these days, I feel good and I’m confident the Rakete will be in Barcelona for a while longer.”
We know that no player is comfortable when he doesn’t play as much as he thinks he deserves, and that happened to you during the first part of the season. Did any of your teammates call you and provide support?
“Of course. First of all, it’s not nice when you’re not playing. Especially when you don’t understand why. And when they don’t want to explain the reasons to you. Of course, I respect it if the coach decides on other players. That’s why we are in a team sport, not an individual sport. The problem was that they didn’t want to or didn’t know how to explain the reasons to me. That was my fault. But that’s why I had the support of my teammates, coach Dalic, which made it even easier for me to bear it all. And I am really grateful to them all. Because of all this, I feel overjoyed to have them with me.”
At one point, you said that you don’t want the leaders of Barcelona to treat you like a sack of potatoes, that is, that you will find your own club if you need to leave.
“By that, I just meant that I could be talked to about everything. Because I never want anything by force. I want to deserve everything, let everything be as it should be. Because I always take the fair route, I don’t hide anything. I think I showed my character with that. I will never have a problem with that if we sit down, talk, find a common solution. I signed my contract with the desire to fulfill it to the end, but if for any reason it cannot be fulfilled or someone else has different thoughts, you just need to sit down and talk. And that was my only thought when I said that. But now it’s all settled, so I’m calm and happy. And I train more than ever.”
Your position is clear – you want to stay in Barcelona.
“As you know, in football everything happens very fast, a lot of things change in a little time. So even now, this situation with the virus has changed a lot. I think the most important thing is to think about the present moment, and that means we are starting the championship next weekend. We must be ready for that too. With the years I have, I think I have proven that and that football is most important to me. I simply want to be happy and enjoy. And that means winning a lot more trophies with Barcelona.”
Which is more important to you, Barcelona or Croatia?
“I have a lot of respect for my club, but the Croatia national team is more important to me. Of course, we all follow the rhythm of the clubs where we get paid. But of course, above all, Croatia is mine.”
I ask that because if you stay in Barcelona, maybe you would have a season like at the beginning of this one, so you would be without adequate minutes, which would be a problem for Croatia.
“It doesn’t have to be that way, does it? But if that happens, then I will analyze the situation at the right time. I never wanted to be selfish and think only about myself or what I would have to or what would suit me, but I always think about what is best for the national team and Croatia, and that is best for me. So there is no doubt about it, I am very calm. And I can’t wait to get together, to fight for our colors, our jersey, our people. It’s always special, different.”
At the beginning of April, you did not want to confirm that you were going to the Euros, although we know that you love Croatia very much, and then you said that you had to talk to coach Dalic.
“When I said I wanted to talk to the coach, I said it because I have a very good relationship with him, we know each other well, we understand each other well. And I think there must always be some kind of communication between us. So there are no doubts, it is an honor for me to play for the national team and every time it is my first.”
Have you perhaps talked to him in the meantime?
“Yes, we talk every now and then, about the whole situation, about all that. But now all of us are thinking about club events. Because, unfortunately, because of the corona, the Euros were canceled, the national team matches were canceled. The most important thing is that we are in touch, that we are all healthy, that we can train normally, because there will certainly not be too much of a break this summer. From one season we will very soon go to a new one. It will be a meaningful football summer, which is new for all of us, but I repeat, the most important thing is that we all do great.”
So you’re going to the Euros next summer, unless there are some extraordinary circumstances?
“I hope nothing will attack me in the meantime, ha, ha. There is no doubt because all of us from this great generation has shown that we have excellent communication. I must also emphasize that I have a very good relationship with the coach, we are open to each other and there will be no problems.”
In an interview for T.portal before the World Cup in Russia, you left the possibility open that this could be your last national team cycle. But as you have already extended your term in the national team, perhaps it would be best to conclude it with the next World Cup, in Qatar in 2022?
“Ha, ha… Who knows, maybe it won’t be until 2024. You never know. But the most important thing to me is that I can talk to the coach at any time, as I did after the World Cup in Russia. I also talked to my family, to my wife and I came to the decision that I wanted to continue. There are a lot of games ahead of us, we just need to enjoy so we continue to be real.”
You can read the full interview here.
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