It seems like a matter of time before Ivan Rakitic leaves Barcelona. Not just because Inter and AC Milan have been linked, but because the Croatian has already talked about lack of playing time at the Nou Camp.
Before fading out around last season, Rakitic was one of Europe’s most influential midfielders. His completeness as a player helped Barcelona tide over the transition when the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta left the club.
But as things stand, Barca have moved on from the 31-year-old. He was crucial in the club’s Champions League win in 2015 and has been a loyal servant for about five years now. But the presence of younger players like Arthur, Frenkie de Jong and Sergi Roberto has seen Rakitic’s first-team place get taken away.
He finds himself low in the pecking order, with Arturo Vidal still higher on the ladder due to his ability to add venom from the midfield. That is exactly what the Chilean did in the game against Inter in the Champions League.
Links to both of the Milan clubs make sense, though. For different reasons.
Inter, who were unbeaten in the league till the loss in the Derby D’Italia, lacked the midfield depth against Juve. Stefano Sensi’s injury saw Matias Vecino come on and the Uruguayan struggled to make an impact.
Indeed, it is no coincidence that Inter are being linked with midfielders like Sergey Milinkovic-Savic, Sandro Tonali and Nemanja Matic. Antonio Conte has recognised the need to increase the depth in midfield. Nicolo Barella, Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic have enjoyed great starts but the second choice options don’t seem good enough.
Borja Valero and Vecino hardly seem players who could help Inter challenge for the Scudetto. Roberto Gagliardini can do a good job.
Rakitic is someone who can play in any of three positions in midfield, even though he isn’t as physical as Barella. He does play in the same team as Brozovic for the Croatian national team. The Inter man plays deeper while Rakitic plays in between him and Luka Modric.
Rakitic is a more intelligent player than Barella, who made more tackles per game for Cagliari last season than the Barca man did. Barella made 2.8 tackles per game while Rakitic could only manage 0.9. But the former Sevilla star made 1.5 interceptions per game. And Barella made 1.1.
Another difference lies in how Barella attacks. The Italian recorded 1.2 dribbles per game last season and took more shots per game at 1.5. But Rakitic is less mobile but relies on his technical ability.
The 31-year-old played 74.6 passes per game last season. Barella played only 51. More so, Rakitic had a passing accuracy of 91%, as compared to Barella’s average of 81% (Via Whoscored)
The heatmaps above clearly shows that Barella is more mobile than Rakitic and likes to take the ball into advanced areas. Rakitic prefers to sit and control games.
Because of that, comparisons with Sensi will not make too much sense. Playing in place of the former Sassuolo man requires the player to get on the ball and dribble it. Sensi presses high up the pitch off the ball too and Rakitic may not do that role as well as the Italian. Roberto Gagliardini though, already has.
At Inter, Rakitic will add much-needed variety in the heart of the park. He is unlike any of the other midfielders in that and Conte would need that.
Coming to Milan though- Rakitic will be the best technical midfielder in that side.
For a side that had little or no balance in that area under Marco Giampaolo, Rakitic will improve that part of the game. Hakan Calhanoglu has drawn heavy criticism for a lack of effort. So has Lucas Biglia. Giampaolo didn’t use newer signings like Lucas Paqueta and Ismael Bennacer as much as everyone wanted.
He used slow players for what has to be a dynamic system. While Rakitic isn’t too mobile too, he brings immense quality. New manager Stefano Pioli is unlikely to change too much. He has placed more emphasis on team bonding and bringing the players together.
Rakitic would add a lot of creativity and experience but if Pioli sticks to the same playing style, he is unlikely to play too much. The demand is to play more dynamic players and Rakitic doesn’t fit that.
More so, Milan will find it tough to afford the Croatian’s wage. They recorded a loss of €146 million last year and that will not help at all.