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Is there still space for Ivan Rakitić at Barcelona?

There are seven midfielders in the squad and the Croatian has seen a drastic reduction in minutes

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

Barcelona wanted Ivan Rakitić gone this summer, or so it was rumored. In the end, the Croatian was supposedly ready to be part of an exchange that would have sent Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain back to Barça, or ready to go to Juventus in another deal. Both negotiations broke down for one reason or another, and Rakitić is still here, for one more half a season, at the very least.

Rakitić had become an essential starter for Barça ever since the last half of Xavi’s last season at the Camp Nou. Under Ernesto Valverde, the Croatian was seldom missing from the teamsheet. That is, until this season. Rakitić has only garnered 45 minutes in three matches this term, a paltry amount for a player used to always playing.

The arrival of Frenkie de Jong is surely the biggest reason why, although the question remains why Raki has been an unused sub twice even if we accept De Jong has taken his starting spot.

One reason for this is the abundance of midfielders in the squad. Carles Aleñá is a bonafide first team player now, Arturo Vidal and Arthur are in their second years at Barça, and Valverde has shown a willingness to play Sergi Roberto in the middle as opposed to as a fullback. Sergio Busquets remains a key piece, as always, too.

Those five alongside De Jong and Rakitić himself make seven players for three spots in midfield, and that’s not even considering playing a youth player like Riqui Puig or Álex Collado there.

Was Valverde keeping Rakitić off the pitch due to transfer rumors? Or is it a sign that he has moved on from the Croatian and wants to use his other options more?

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