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Is Ivan Rakitic back in favour at Barcelona?

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Ernesto Valverde has been relying on the Croatian again

Atletico Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Ivan Rakitic really does get a raw deal from Barca fans.

There, I’ve said it. The Croatian has rarely put a foot wrong but is often the player most dug out if the team performance has been less than perfect.

Maybe it’s to do with the fact that he’s an ‘outsider’? Whatever the reasons for supporter ire towards him, it’s worth dwelling on whether his recent appearances herald a new beginning for him, or whether it’s just a window dressing exercise.

After all, we were led to believe that Ivan would be on his way if Neymar had been signed back in the summer, and for the most part of this season, he’s looked like a spare part. Discarded and rarely used.

He’s not really that bad though is he?

If his only crime is playing a square rather than forward pass, then I for one am perfectly willing to accept that for everything else he gives to the team.

For a start, he can at least last for 90 minutes, something that Arthur Melo still seems unable to do despite being a decade the Croatian’s junior.

Clearly, Frenkie de Jong has to play, though Rakitic can also hold his own in the Dutchman’s role too if needed. He might not be as dynamic as Frenkie but he hasn’t really slowed down as such, because he was never the fastest of players in the first place.

Even Sergio Busquets’ position could be adequately covered by a player that appears to never make a fuss and just gets on with whatever the coach decides is his role in a particular game.

The overbooking in midfield hasn’t really helped him at all. No Riqui Puig, no Carles Alena, Arturo Vidal threatening to walk away from the Camp Nou if he doesn’t feel ‘important’ soon, Sergi Roberto not getting a game when Nelson Semedo returns potentially...

Evidently, Valverde can’t keep everyone happy, but at least with Puig and Alena, they could go out on loan to get games if the club don’t think they’re ready just yet.

But if his recent two matches is just a case of putting Rakitic in the shop window in order to make space, then surely the club have to ensure that either Puig or (more likely) Alena are allowed to step up on a more regular basis.

With huge UCL games coming in the new year, I just don’t see that happening, and that’s when players like the Croatian come into their own. His experience, cool head and associative play will be just what’s required.

Maybe being a solid and reliable but unspectacular exponent is the real reason he remains so maligned.

But he’s worth another half season at the very least... isn’t he?