Until recently, Ivan Rakitic was untouchable for Ernesto Valverde.
So much so that during last season he was consistently one of the Basque coach’s most used players.
His relentless box to box ethic certainly won admirers further afield than the Barcelona dressing room, and to that end, it was understandable why the Croat was one of Valverde’s most trusted lieutenants.
However, to the fan base at large, he was becoming the embodiment of Valverde on the pitch.
Safe, studious and considered in his application but without any dynamism.
Clearly, that won’t wash at the Camp Nou.
For all of his obvious attributes, the midfielder has become predictable and, dare we say it, a little boring to watch.
With other targets required elsewhere, and the Barça midfield as over-stocked as it’s ever been, the time seems to be right for a parting of the ways.
That exact scenario has already been mooted, but Rakitic hasn’t played ball to this point, preferring to be crystal clear in his desire to stay with Barcelona.
Against an admittedly strong Arsenal side in the Joan Gamper Trophy, he did little of note, overshadowed by new boy Frenkie De Jong.
whilst Frenkie and Riqui look bright, Rakitic looks utterly pedestrian when he should be the one providing the most punch.— Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt) August 4, 2019
The Dutchman, along with the likes of Arthur Melo, herald a new dawn for Barça in the middle of the park. A changing of the guard.
It’s that which perhaps Rakitic should focus on. His importance in the side is waning and, were he so minded, he could retain his status elsewhere.
One shouldn’t downplay his contributions to the Blaugrana cause either, because he’s been excellent, particularly in his first couple of seasons.
As he showed against Tottenham last season and already against Chelsea in this preseason, he still possesses one of the cleanest, most powerful shots in the squad… but that isn’t enough to keep him as a starter.
If he doesn’t wish to be used as a makeweight in any deal, that’s understandable, but as an intelligent professional, he will know that his future lies elsewhere.
Accept that with good grace now, and there’s still time to get a decent move. Perhaps the last big contract of his career.
Failure to acknowledge the inevitable will only end with his minutes diminishing and that’s no good for anyone.
Sometimes in order to move forward, a sideways step and swallowing of pride is required.
Valverde has to make that point succinctly enough for Rakitic to understand that his time is now up.