Though he wasn’t necessarily headline-grabbing against Getafe, Ivan Rakitic’s performance was one of understated excellence nonetheless.
As has been commonplace since the Croatian signed for the Blaugranes if truth be told.
The midfielder rarely has a bad game and is virtually indispensable for Ernesto Valverde, given that he is one of the coach’s most used players.
Whether it be as a holding midfielder - a role he executed with aplomb against Getafe until Sergio Busquets’ introduction - a workhorse or a supplementary attacker, there’s no noticeable drop off in the standard of Rakitic’s work.
Ivan Rakitic has been on fire this year pic.twitter.com/SjUNnpYE6e— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 28, 2018
Like Busi, his way of working allows the other, more celebrated members of the Barca cast to go about their duties with ease.
Importantly, wherever he’s stationed on the pitch, you’ll not hear a bad word spoken by the player. A true man for all seasons/jack of all trades, but far from being master of none, he excels in all.
Let’s not forget that, thanks to Croatia’s appearance in the World Cup final, Rakitic has barely had time to rest. He also took part in all but one of his country’s UEFA Nations League games too.
In an age when it’s all too easy to blame lethargy and tiredness on performance levels, Rakitic has been at the coal face throughout. Not bad for a player who’ll turn 31 in a couple of months time.
⚽️ ...and the best @championsleague goal of the group stage is... Ivan ROCKETic— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 20, 2018
Whilst there are still questions mark on certain players, for example, where is Philippe Coutinho’s best position, can Sergi Roberto be a real difference maker as a right-back etc., Valverde knows that wherever he stations Rakitic; left, right or central, the job will get done.
You can’t really put a price on that, even though some have attempted too, and the player himself even admitted the existence of lucrative offers at the beginning of the campaign.
What marks him out amongst his contemporaries is how relentless he is from first minute to last. As others tire, Valverde can count on the Croatian to make that lung-bursting late run to help win Barca the game.
Further, he rarely gives up possession and won’t take any risks if he doesn’t have to.
Simple football if you like. But damn effective. And what was it that Cruyff once said; “Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
It’s a quote that could’ve been invented to encompass all that Rakitic brings to the Blaugranes, and if they should go on and win the Champions League again, a stated aim at the start of the season, it will be Raki’s trophy as much as anyones.