For a player to make the step up from being ever so slightly under the radar to being considered world class can happen in a few ways. They can have a season spent in the very best of form. They can impose themselves on a competition. Or they can come up with a defining moment of genius. For Ivan Rakitic this contains all three:
If there’s a finer example of a backheeled chapeu (which I’m reliably informed is what they’re called) then it’s not easy found on Youtube. Among the many, many amazing things Rakitic is up to in that clip it’s that by the time the ball has left his boot on the backheel he’s already moving to go past Pepe, certain that the defender has been beaten. The touch he takes on the run to leave it perfectly in his path isn’t bad either. To do all that and unleash the perfect pass into Carlos Bacca’s path takes supernatural composure. To do it at 1-1 against a flying Real Madrid side is almost beyond belief.
It’s been one of those years for Ivan. 12 goals and 10 assists only tell half the story of his importance to a Sevilla team rapidly becoming the fourth best in Spain (Bilbao fans will disagree with this). Prior to this season he’s been criminally under the radar, even within his own club. 2013-14 has been his breakthrough album. Before the season started £3 million would have apparently been enough to sign him. Now his value must be ten times that.
Part of his importance to his team is in his adaptability. He can and has filled any position in midfield, although enjoys more influence when he plays central. Although his most common position for Sevilla this season has been behind the striker his transfer value and probably long term future lies in his ability to operate as a deep lying playmaker. With the current desire to have sitting midfielders be able to dictate play with their passing putting these players at a premium if he does move he’ll not be short of suitors.
Rumours of him ending up at Real Madrid are hopefully based on the fact they’ve quite often not been shy about signing up players good enough to hurt them. Given that playing for the national team his performance in tandem with Spain’s second best Croatian midfielder Luka Modric hasn’t always been successful it surely doesn’t make sense to recreate it at club level. Outside of Los Blancos Rakitic would make sense for almost every other elite team on the planet. Just in the Premier League he would walk into any of the Chelsea, Liverpool, Man Utd or Tottenham teams. And he’d be at least as good as anyone at Man City or Arsenal.
Not that it’s a given he’ll be leaving Sevilla. Even after being offered around at the start of this season its clear Sevilla realise what they have now. He’s become far and away their most important player. His wife and family are apparently very happy where they are. It’s an exciting time for the club generally, they’re two games away from a Europa League final and hanging around for a possible crack at the Champions League would be apt. What’s clear is that if he does leave that this time he won’t be undervalued.