Barcelona were right to replace Fabregas with Rakitic

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The Croatian midfielder arrived in the summer of 2014 as part of a new-look team under Luis Enrique and the Blaugrana have most missed his predecessor at all


Barcelona spent years trying to sign Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal. However, when the midfielder finally returned to the club where he had emerged as a talented youngster, things never quite worked out. And in 2014 he left after just three seasons, to be replaced by Ivan Rakitic.

There were few tears. A year earlier, Barca had seen the talented Thiago Alcantara depart to join Bayern Munich. He, like Cesc, was one of their own. But Fabregas' relationship with the supporters soured after some disappointing displays back at Camp Nou. So he decided to move on, Barca were happy to sell him and Rakitic has proved much more effective in his place.

In his defence, Cesc played for Barca at a tricky time. His one season under Pep Guardiola was the least successful in the Catalan coach's four-year spell, while subsequent campaigns under Tito Vilanova and Tata Martino were rocked by the former's illness and a decline on the pitch before Luis Enrique came in to steer the club to a treble in 2014-15.

The sale of Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez allowed the incoming coach to make vital signings as Barca prepared for a two-window transfer ban by bringing in several important players in the summer of 2014, including Luis Suarez, Claudio Bravo, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and, of course, Rakitic.

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The Croatian midfielder had been a key man in the Sevilla side that had won the first of three consecutive Europa League titles under Unai Emery and signed for a fee of around €18 million plus the loan of Denis Suarez to the Andalusian club. Cesc, meanwhile, was sold to Chelsea for €33m.

And for €15m less, Barca had signed a player who gave them a directness and an aggressiveness they had lacked with his predecessor. Rakitic was ideal for the change of style brought about by Luis Enrique who introduced more of a counter-attacking philosophy relying upon the brilliance of forwards Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.

The Croat combines technique with aggression and Barcelona's midfield has benefited from the change. Tougher to break down and faster in transitional play, the Blaugrana are an improved side since Luis Enrique took over and that has been evident by the fact they have won seven trophies in that time already.

Selling Sanchez and signing Suarez was a big part of that, the Uruguay striker forming a formidable front line with Messi and Neymar, described by Luis Enrique as the greatest trident in the history of football.

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But the change in midfield was also extremely important. Even though he played through injury and was utilised in a number of positions, Cesc never truly worked at Barca as it was hoped he would and it was time to move on for both parties.

And in his absence, Rakitic has given the team added steel, strength and stamina, while they have lost nothing in terms of technical ability. The Croat is not a prolific scorer, but pops up with important goals, is an excellent passer and a hard worker as well. So even though things may have been different for Cesc under Luis Enrique had he stayed, selling Fabregas and recruiting Rakitic was undoubtedly the right decision by Barcelona.

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