The 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund helped to lift the dark cloud surrounding FC Barcelona at the moment. The team has progressed to the Last 16 of the Champions League and remains at the top of LaLiga but the performance of Ivan Rakitic was another positive for Barça.
Rakitic was handed only his second start of the season and took full advantage of the opportunity. It didn't get off to the greatest of starts as he lost the ball in a dangerous position but, unlike against Granada, the midfielder wasn't going to let that error dictate his entire performance. He showed his quality and slot in perfectly alongside regulars Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong. They allowed Barça to keep control of the midfield and create a better style of football than what's been seen in recent weeks.
It was like Rakitic was playing every week as he rediscovered his natural connection with Busquets. He also linked up well with new signing de Jong, who offers something different to everyone else behind the front three.
When Arturo Vidal replaced the Croatian after 78 minutes, he had completed more minutes against Dortmund than in the previous four Champions League matches (58).
The 'Transfer market' factor
A lot of people believe Rakitic has been relegated to the bench in order for younger players, such as de Jong and Arthur Melo, to be given a more important role in the team with one eye on the future.
However, when Busquets has needed a rest the team hasn't turned to Rakitic but rather Vidal.
Barça were counting on the cash windfall from selling the Croatian midfielder so they could fund other moves in the summer. The player rejected a move away and, as such, as sent to the bench. He's been involved in 12 of the 18 matches Barça have played this season but the majority of those have been brief cameos from the bench (he's played 366 out of a possible 1,620 minutes).
Rakitic took advantage of his chance last night to prove himself to the coach and the fans but perhaps also to show he'd be a fine signing for anyone else in Europe. Atletico Madrid are the latest team to be linked with a move for Ivan. Will Barça turn to Rakitic again despite his contract ending in 2021?