'One of the most underrated players in the world' - Rakitic horribly mistreated by Barca trolls

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The Croatian midfielder has recently become a transfer bargaining chip for the Catalans, but has always been so much more for the club

For a man not known for openly praising players, Jose Mourinho perhaps put it best when describing Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic. 

"I've wanted to say this for a long, long time," the Portuguese began during an appearance on beIN Sports in March. "Rakitic is one of the most underrated players in the world.

“He is a fantastic player at every level: he does defensive work on the right side to compensate for [Lionel] Messi, he runs miles. In ball possession, he's fantastic. He's simple. He's effective."

Since moving to Camp Nou in 2014 from Sevilla, Rakitic has won four Liga titles, four Copa del Rey trophies and the Champions League – a collection of silverware that should demand respect. 

Yet, despite playing a key role in Barcelona's recent success, the Croatian has been underappreciated by the majority of the Catalan faithful, and horribly mistreated by a select few.

Though playing 54 games for the club last season in all competitions, scoring five goals and contributing 10 assists as a central midfielder, Rakitic has been deemed surplus to requirements by the Blaugrana board.

In their desperation to re-sign Neymar, Barca are offering Rakitic as a makeweight.

Of course, the 31-year-old is no stranger to being linked with moves away from Camp Nou. 

"I am used to seeing my name mentioned [in transfer stories] every season," Rakitic said in July.

"Since I got here, it has always been the same. I spoke with the club and with [Ernesto] Valverde and my idea is to stay here and its the club's plan too, but I am open to everything."

Indeed, Rakitic is now ready to leave the Blaugrana, with the only stumbling block in relation to his move to Paris the length of the contract on offer. The Croat wants a four-year deal; PSG are presently only willing to offer him three years.

Ivan Rakitic

He would be missed at Camp Nou, at least on the field.

Happily pulling the strings in midfield as he allows the likes of Messi and Luis Suarez to shine, the midfielder has never looked for the limelight but deserves far more praise than he receives. 

Upon arriving from Sevilla, Rakitic very quickly proved his worth by playing a crucial role in Barca's 2015 Champions League triumph, notably scoring the opening goal in the final against Juventus.

From that point on he's made himself one of the most reliable players at Camp Nou. While rarely stealing the show, Rakitic has rarely missed a game, playing over 50 matches each season, and, in the process, provided the side with a key point of stability following the departure of veterans like Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

But despite becoming such an integral part of the Catalan's side, Rakitic has somehow – along with Valverde – become the focus of Barca fans' frustration with their side's inability to add to their European Cup collection.

Just after last season's shocking semi-final capitulation at Anfield, when the Catalans blew a 3-0 first-leg lead over Liverpool, Rakitic was confronted by an angry group of ultras at his own home.

The mob was upset that he had travelled with his family to a fair in Seville the day after the game. It was deemed symbolic of his perceived lack of commitment to the cause.

However, despite his laconic style, Rakitic has never treated playing for Barcelona as anything other than a privilege.

“I’ve had four and a half years here that have been so good,” he told GQ in April.

“I’m part of the biggest team in the world and that makes me very proud. I love football. A lot. It still feels amazing to be able to play football every day and if you love something then you tend to be better at it. I would never describe football as a job because it doesn’t feel like a job.

"But I also know that there’s a responsibility to play here, that people are looking at you every minute and that they want to know what you are doing. 

"Every player is different but I try to treat everyone the same. On a day-to-day basis, I come across other footballers and club staff and I try to treat all the same, from the security guard to Lionel Messi."

Lionel Messi Ivan Rakitic Barcelona 2018-19

Rakitic once recalled his seven-month pursuit of his now-wife Raquel Mauri.

The Croatian first spotted the Spaniard serving at a bar in Seville and returned every day for months in an attempt to convince her to go on a date with him. 

"I was drinking so much coffee it was ridiculous. I probably asked her out 20 or 30 times," Rakitic wrote in The Players Tribune.

"It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. It was harder than winning the Champions League, and it took nearly as long."

Ultimately, Rakitic eventually won Mauri over by improving his Spanish just to speak to her in her native tongue. The pair are now happily married and the proud parents of two daughters. 

That touching tale of perseverance had a happy ending. But Rakitic's relationship with Barcelona's fans looks set to end in a messy divorce.

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Even a quick look at his mentions on Twitter this week illustrates just how desperate the more unsavoury element of Barcelona's online support is to see Rakitic gone.

He does not deserve such vitriol. He has represented the club with great class. The same cannot be said of many of the club's supposed supporters.

Rakitic will be better off without them.

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