Ivan Rakitic's time at FC Barcelona might be coming to an end. The Croatian midfielder is more likely to leave in the January transfer window than he is to complete his sixth season at the Camp Nou. The reason for letting him go is primarily for sporting reasons but also to help balance the books.
Ever since Rakitic joined Barça from Sevilla in 2014 - for just €18m - the midfielder has been a permanent fixture of the starting lineup. He was the go-to man for Luis Enrique (three seasons) and the first two of Ernesto Valverde's spell in charge. He featured in 88% of matches under Luis Enrique (159 out of 181) and, before this season, 92% of the matches under Valverde (109 out of 118). A key figure in Barcelona's success.
FROM STARTER TO SUBSTITUTE
However, that's all changed in Rakitic's sixth season at the club. Whilst he's appeared in six of the ten official matches so far - only once as a starter - but he's only accumulated 21% of the minutes available (187 out of 900). Right now, the Croatian is no longer the first name on the team sheet at the Camp Nou.
Valverde warned Rakitic during preseason that he couldn't guarantee him a place in his team this year. The coach has since made a conscious decision to add youth and potential to his midfield rather than overloading it with experience. The arrival of Frenkie de Jong, as well as the impressive start to life at Barça from Arthur, are also key factors behind the Croatian's fading influence.
RIGHT TIME TO SELL?
Barça believe it's the right time to cash in on Rakitic after failing to find a willing buyer in the summer. He's still got a year and a half on his contract (expires June 2021). If the club decided to wait until next summer, when Rakitic only had a year left on his deal, the offers are likely to be on the low side.
The Croatian asked for a new and improved contract but the club decided against entering talks with him despite offering others new deals. PSG had a bid accepted in 2018 and offered Rakitic €10m per season. Despite turning those riches down and committing his future to Barça, the club felt the contract negotiated in 2017 was more than fair.
Plenty of sides would love to add Rakitic to their squad. Inter Milan are long-term admirers of the Croatian midfielder and a €40m price-tag is unlikely to put off suitors. Manchester United are also interested as they look to rebuild their squad.
Rakitic has always dismissed talk of leaving the Camp Nou but he recently admitted that he "didn't want to walk around the city and enjoy the beach" in reference to his lack of playing time.
The midfielder turns 32 next March and is ready for a new challenge. He doesn't want more money but rather to feel like an important part of a new project. Inter will hope their offer is enticing enough, but they'll face strong competition to land Rakitic.