“How does my little girl feel when you take away her toy? She feels sad. That’s just how I feel. They took the ball away from me. I feel sad.”
Ivan Rakitić gave a candid and emotional interview to Jorge Valdano earlier this week, in which he detailed his struggle for playing time at Barcelona and kept the door wide open for a move away from the league champions in January. Rakitić was a key player throughout his first five seasons in Catalonia, but big-money transfers this past summer pushed the 31-year-old out of the picture. The Croatia international has made just one start across 10 appearances this season, and he is expected to leave when the January window opens.
According to Movistar+, though, he may not have to go very far.
Atlético Madrid will be one of the teams in the running for Rakitić, per the Spanish subscription television channel. Italian sides Juventus and Inter Milan are expected to be involved along with Manchester United, but “Vamos” host Susana Guasch stated Thursday night that the Rojiblancos are willing to hand over €40 million to their rivals in a bid to sign Rakitić. It’s worth noting the player chose Barcelona over Atlético and Real Madrid in the summer of 2014 after Sevilla got a raffle going for his services.
On paper, Rakitić would be a virtually perfect fit in Diego Simeone’s team, as he combines a defensive midfielder’s tenacity and industriousness with a playmaker’s passing and technical ability. However, even if Atlético can afford to purchase Rakitić, Barcelona would very much like to avoid sending him there (especially after this summer’s Antoine Griezmann drama). He also pockets high wages, and Atleti have reached LaLiga’s revenue-based salary limit. As such, the club must sell one player — in this case, almost certainly a midfielder — before buying another.
But the mattress makers may have a more immediate need, as Thursday brought news that Diego Costa has a slipped disc in his neck.
Costa missed training Wednesday and will be absent from upcoming matches, but further tests are necessary to determine just how many we’re talking. AS has reported the injury will require surgery if it is impacting a nerve — in that case, the veteran forward could be out for most if not all of 2019/20.
The 31-year-old again has not found form this season, as he has only been able to muster two goals and three assists from 15 appearances between LaLiga and the Champions League. But he had been healthy to this point, and per all accounts he remains a strong locker room presence.
Álvaro Morata’s scorching run has taken some heat off Simeone’s forward corps, but Cholo will have to find another option behind Morata, Ángel Correa and João Félix. Whether said option is outcast Ivan Šaponjić or a potential January arrival remains to be seen. As mentioned above, Atlético would go over the league-mandated salary cap with another signing — the club cannot add more salary without sending some out first.