Croatia vice-captain Ivan Rakitic is spending the Christmas holidays with his family and friends in Spain and this week he gave a candid interview to daily Sportske Novosti where he talked about the upcoming Euro and his future in the red and white checkers.
By his own admission, the 31-year-old has had a mixed 2019. He missed out on winning the Champions League and Spanish Cup with Barcelona, but he would claim another league title. In September he was ruled out of Euro qualifiers against Slovakia and Azerbaijan as his club future hung in the balance, but the year ended on a high note with Croatia qualifying for another Euro.
The tournament could well be his swan song in the red and white checkers.
“Yes, it is possible. To be honest, that is completely clear. We will see what and how, but first see what ideas the coach has. I have not spoken to him for a while, he has not called or come to visit. We will consider what is best, not only for me, but for the whole national team. I said I would give everything needed for the young players. The most important is the well-being of Croatia, we will solve the rest. Slowly. It doesn’t matter what I want, but what is best for all of us,” Rakitic said.
Rakitic has been put under most pressure for a spot in the starting line-up by CSKA Moscow midfielder Nikola Vlasic. Vlasic has been excellent when given the opportunity to cover for the Barcelona star during qualifying and time will tell who will start when Croatia takes on England at Wembley in their Euro 2020 opener on 14 June.
“Euro will not be easy or comfortable. It is a little strange that some national teams are hosts in all three matches in the group, as is the case with England. I don’t understand that system of competition. But as best we can, we will obey the rules as they are and fight. I’m sure we’ll be ready for Euro,” Rakitic said, before adding.
“There are three games ahead of us in which we will fight for points and try to advance out of the group. We have to take it match by match, as we did in Russia. We need to be prepared for each match and take it only one step at a time. The first goal is to move on from the group and later to see what and how much we can do. I am convinced that we can be a very uncomfortable team again,” he said.
Finally, Raktiic touched on the special bond he has with captain Luka Modric.
“First of all, my respect and love for him was always maximal. I think he, and the whole of Croatia, and the whole world know that I love him as a brother. We have gone through a lot together, side by side. I am always extremely happy for his success and everything he does. So when we play together, I like to watch him and be with him, as a teammate, but equally as a friend. That’s what matters most to me.”