Ivan Rakitic, the 26-year-old Croatian midfielder, is Barcelona bound, according to reports coming out of Spain.
The dynamic attacking-midfielder will cost Barça in the region of €20 million, potentially with the added bonus of a Barcelona player moving in the opposite direction. The transfer will be a major boost for new Barcelona manager Luís Enrique, having seen off competition from Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid to capture Rakitic's signature.
With 12 goals and 10 assists in La Liga, Rakitic outscored Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, Cesc Fábregas and even Neymar, so his addition should provide some welcome thrust in the midfield department.
Barça failed to capitalise on dominating performances on several occasions last season, with goals from the central midfield area a rare commodity. Rakitic played a crucial role in Sevilla's Europa League win, claiming the official man-of-the-match award in the final.
His role at Barcelona will be somewhat different from that at Sevilla, where he was the focal point and sole playmaker, with two defensive midfielders providing defensive cover. That being said, he is comfortable playing a deeper role, and has lined up on the wings throughout his career, so versatility comes naturally with his game.
The arrival of Rakitic boasts serious questions about the future of some of the current Barcelona squad, namely Xavi and Fábregas.
By signing another central midfielder, Enrique has almost certainly sealed Fábregas' exit, and the Spain international appears to be Chelsea bound. Xavi looks set to play a removed role at the Camp Nou next season, given Enrique's preference for a combination of skill and dynamism, especially in midfield. A combination of Sergio Busquets, Iniesta and Rakitic in the centre would provide Barcelona with energy, without compromising the famous Barça style.
The player departing Barcelona for Sevilla is also going to be an intriguing decision. At twenty-two Sergi Roberto needs to be playing first team football, and with Rafinha rejoining the club after a loan spell under Enrique at Celta Vigo, it could well be time for the Spanish Under-21 international to leave the Camp Nou.
Given Sevilla will be playing Champions League football, Roberto would be able to test himself at the highest level on a regular basis, and would be a like-for-like replacement for Rakitic. Ibrahim Affelay and Jonathan Dos Santos are also in need of a fresh start, although the latter is reportedly heading out on loan to Elche next season.
If, as expected, Rakitic does join Barcelona, he could become the first Croatian international to play for the Blaugrana, with compatriot Alen Halilovic expected to start off with the Barcelona B side, in the Segunda División.
At €20 million, Rakitic is a steal in the modern game, whilst Sevilla will certainly make a healthy profit on the €2.5 million they splashed out to sign him from Schalke 04, in 2011. It will not be easy to replace the influential midfielder however, and Sevilla will need to reinvest the funds wisely, to ensure they keep progressing under Unai Emery.
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