While Manchester United seemingly focus their attention on the acquisition of any number of unavailable Bayern Munich midfield players, Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla for a relatively reasonable fee of €20 million.
Rakitic was the heartbeat of Sevilla’s push to Europa League glory in the recently concluded club season; scoring 15 goals and providing 12 assists in all competitions along the way. Add to this the 12 goals the 27-year-old contributed in the previous campaign and Barcelona have recruited themselves quite a player.
But, hold on, don’t Manchester United want (read: need) a midfield player of creative and goalscoring repute?
Well, yes, they most certainly do.
And isn’t Rakitic perfectly capable of scoring and providing goals?
Then why did they not pursue a move for Rakitic?
That is a very good question.
While there will never be clear evidence that Rakitic would have been able to guarantee Manchester United what they so desire, perhaps becoming that missing Paul Scholes shaped piece in their midfield, his attributes and statistics suggest the Croatian was a player deserving of interest from the club.
There may have been some reluctance on Manchester United’s part given that Rakitic is at his most incisive and dangerous when playing a role approaching that of a No.10, as there is something of a bevy of options for this position currently available at Old Trafford.
But while Rakitic excels in this position, perhaps most notably in the Europa League final against Porto, he can offer so much more. During Sevilla’s memorable campaign he started 16 times in a more reserved midfield capacity and, arguably, was more productive with most of the play in front of him.
On these occasions where his duties included more rigorous defensive work than in his most accustomed advanced attacking role, Rakitic was actually able to score on a more frequent basis. In these 16 appearances in central midfield he scored eight times, while his highest average WhoScored rating (7.94) was attributed to the games during which he was employed as a defensive midfielder.
Tackling is far from his strongest attribute, but a combative player, it would appear, is not what Manchester United are after. Louis van Gaal wants a creator - a player able to affect the game on a regular basis. So why not Rakitic? Only Angel di Maria and Lionel Messi played more key passes per game in La Liga during 2013/14.
Rakitic also provided a greater average number of key passes than Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger - players all to have been linked with moves to Manchester United. Naturally their pass completion statistics are far superior, but much of that owes to the tactics employed by Pep Guardiola rather than any particular Rakitic deficiency.
But while Manchester United have persisted with moves for these Bayern players, efforts that will seemingly be to no avail, the club appeared to allow Rakitic to move to Barcelona unopposed. Rakitic could have proved a significant hit at Old Trafford but, perhaps more pertinently, he was actually available for transfer. This failure to act could be a regret come the close of the transfer window