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José Mourinho: Ivan Rakitić “one of the most underrated players in the world”

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The ex-Madrid coach spotlighted the Croatian as one of Barça’s pillars

Manchester United Press Conference Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Barcelona recently completed a memorable double over Real Madrid, with two wins at the Santiago Bernabéu in quick succession. The Catalans can point to several heroes in their exploits in el clásico, but one that stood out in their most recent outing was Ivan Rakitić. He was the scorer as the Catalans won 1-0 over Madrid in La Liga.

Ex-Real Madrid coach José Mourinho was full of praise for the Croatian.

“For me, Rakitić is one of the most underrated players in the world,” Mourinho said speaking as a pundit for BeIN SPORTS. ”He is a fantastic player at every level. He does defensive work on the right side to compensate for Messi. He runs miles. In ball possession he is fantastic. He is simple, he is effective. He is one of the most underrated players.

”Normally we speak about the big names, but Rakitić, for me he needs to improve his Instagram and his social media, because in this moment this is very important, and he’s not very good on that, but he’s very good on the pitch.”

Some interpreted Mourinho, who most recently had been coaching Manchester United, as taking a swipe at his former player Paul Pogba. The two had a rocky relationship at United, and Pogba is known for his flashy style, both on social media and off it. Pogba has 33.5 million followers, Rakitić is far behind him on that count with 13.9 million.

Mourinho, who is also known for his exploits with Porto, Chelsea, and Inter Milan, had already highlighted the Croatian midfielder as a key man prior to kick off:

“Barcelona keep their model of play where there is a position that is very, very important for them, which is the midfield player on the right. Why? Because the midfield player on the right is the one that’s going to allow Messi play where he wants to play, which is completely free, but especially playing inside, playing in between the lines, coming for the ball, going with [Luis] Suárez, appearing and making an overload even in the opposite side.

“That player was Sergi Roberto in the cup, today it is Rakitić on the right side of [Sergio] Busquets. This is the player that is going to cover the right side and allow Messi to be exactly where he can hurt you, which is that connection between him and Suárez.”

After the win, Mourinho praised Ernesto Valverde’s side for their solidity:

“This is a compliment, this is not a criticism. This is a compliment. They didn’t play phenomenal, they aren’t playing phenomenally. They are solid, probably they are more solid than in some other seasons. They know how to defend, they know how to be compact. Their play isn’t as beautiful as people are used to, but they are winning matches. And when you go to the Champions League knockouts and you get the big teams in the quarterfinals and semifinals, probably that’s a great way to do it. They have in [Gerard] Piqué and [Clément] Lenglet a fantastic pairing ahead of [Marc-André] ter Stegen, who season after season only gets better.”