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BARCELONA

Rakitic: Barça board have tricky decision to make on midfielder

Rakitic: Barça board have tricky decision to make on midfielder

CURTO DE LA TORRE

AFP

Camp Nou president Josep Maria Bartomeu promised the Croatian an improved deal after the World Cup and now faces a dilemma whether to deliver or sell.

Ivan Rakitic’s performance in Saturday’s Clásico victory over Real Madrid has given the Barcelona board another headache in their dealings with the Croatia midfielder over a new deal, one that has yet to materialize.

Rakitic’s goal was historic not just as it capped two Clásico victories in four days and practically ensured Real are out of the title reckoning: it also handed Barça the lead in the head-to-head record between the sides for the first time in 87 years.

That will simply serve to endear Rakitic even more to Barcelona fans, who have always held the midfielder in high esteem. Croatia’s run to the World Cup final increased Rakitic’s profile even further and there are few players in his position more coveted across Europe. PSG attempted to lure the 30-year-old to Paris last summer but were unable to meet his 125-million-euro release clause.

Rakitic in demand

It was enough for Barcelona to promise Rakitic an improved deal to ward off other suitors, but despite the gentleman’s agreement between board and player no formal offer has been tabled. Meanwhile, Rakitic’s agent has a desk groaning under the weight of offers as Europe’s elite eye the impasse with increasing interest.

The problem for Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu is the club’s wage bill. Barça are the biggest spenders in terms of salaries in world football and there isn’t much left in the coffers to meet Rakitic’s desire for a larger monthly cheque. Meanwhile, the Camp Nou has already splashed out on Frenkie de Jong, who will arrive in the summer, and are eyeing a move for out.of-favour and soon to be out-of-contract PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot. All of which weakens Rakitic’s bargaining position.

Ernesto Valverde is eager to keep hold of one of his key players and a close confidant who acts as an extension of the coach on the pitch, with the tactical awareness and in-game intelligence to carry out his coach’s orders and pass instructions to teammates.

And far from dropping off in form to strengthen Bartomeu’s hand, the Croatian is in the form of his life and a firm fan favourite. Selling him in the summer would be a contentious move from Bartomeu, but the Barça president also has to balance the books.