Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic sat down and spoke to LaLiga ahead of this weekend's Clasico clash with Real Madrid.
LaLiga: What does El Clásico represent to you?
Rakitic: It's amazing. To be part of this game, you feel so happy. Just to say to can enjoy this game, being on the pitch. It is really crazy. I know how it is to watch at home or to speak with friends about this game and now to be inside it’s just to enjoy it. To try to give your best and of course try to win these games.
LaLiga: How is it play in Santiago Bernabéu?
Rakitic: First of all, it’s one game more. Of course, are really important three points, but weeks before this game or weeks after this game are also three points. We know that a lot of people they are waiting for this game and they really prefer to see a big game, with a lot of goals... For us the most important thing is to go to Madrid to say here we are. We will try to do our best. Of course, we go to Madrid to win this game. And we will see what happens. To play in Madrid is always special. There is a lot of pressure, it's a really nice stadium, it's the biggest game in the world. You have to try to enjoy this game, to give your best and then, of course give your best.
LaLiga: Do you think we have finally seen the best version of Real Madrid in this campaign?
Rakitic: First of all, I have a lot of respect to Real Madrid and also to all other teams, I think that this is LaLiga, there are a lot of games, so maybe if in 2 or 3 weeks you are not at 200% and if you maybe lose some games you will pass some hard days and then there are more details that if you can get it on your side, you start to win. So, football sometimes is not so easy to explain it, but yes, I think Real Madrid are really strong, of course, like every year. Maybe they have this good mood and they feel really good on the pitch, so all these small details are on your side. First of all, I’m happy for Luka. I think that we can see that he’s enjoying a lot, then I’m not so happy for Madrid but this is football, there are a lot of games, this is also really good for us that every three or four games we have a new opportunity to do the best things on the pitch and will be really hard to play against them.
LaLiga: What do you talk about with Luka Modric?
Rakitic: Sometimes we don’t have to explain with words what we are speaking about. I think my relationship with Luka is really special… we played for twelve years together in the national team and also now for six or seven years in LaLiga together, it’s really special of course. He's looking for his team and I try to give my best for Barça. And the best one has to win. I'm really happy for Luka what he can do for himself, but not for his team. But I’m really happy for him and these games are really special for us and also, I like to say it again, It’s really special for a country like Croatia to have two players in the two biggest teams in the world, so it’s really special for us and we will try to enjoy and to show all the people that Croatia have big players.
LaLiga: How do you personally and your teammates feel at this stage compared to the last season?
Rakitic: We’ll see… if we win these games we are much better if not… I think in football you have to live the moment, so you don't have to think about what is going to happen in some weeks. You have to try to give your best in the next game. We know that every game that the opponents play against Barça they are especially motivated, they try to do some special different things. They try to beat us. But we have to think about what we have to do. We know that every game it will be really hard, but never forget that we are together, to enjoy together and just to be Barça, to win every game, of course, we will try to be in these three competitions until the last game inside for everything and then we’ll see what happen. Of course, our dream or our target is to get all these titles, of course.
LaLiga: Will Barcelona retain the title once again?
Rakitic: I think we don't have to think only about Barça and Real Madrid. There is also Atlético de Madrid and all the other teams like Sevilla, Valencia, Real Betis... They are really hard. There are a lot of games, so the winner of ElClásico will not take the title, for sure. So, there are a lot of games that you have to work really good, you have to give your best. Of course, our first target is to get the title of LaLiga again and then show the people around the world that the best team is Barça.
LaLiga: Tell me about the goal you scored in the 2016/2017 season against Real Madrid.
Rakitic: It was not bad. It was a special feeling. The game was quite hard and a little bit nervous, and helping my team with this goal was very important. And also, how the game finished in the last minute... Was really important, but for me, the most important thing was the win of the team, not my goal or what I did in this game. I really like to help my team, to give my best and then if it's possible to score goals, much better of course.
LaLiga: How was the transition, on a personal level, the move from the city of Seville to Barcelona?
Rakitic: Was not so easy, I think everyone in Seville, not only in the club. For me, the club is on the highest level, but also the city, the people there… it’s just to be like at home. I had a really special feeling, I’m so thankful to all the people there, and for me the city and all the people there they have a special part in my heart to be serious. It was special for me but it was also really important to do the next step and then, to have this opportunity to be part of the Barça family it was really important for me, and I think it was an opportunity to say: it’s the moment, I have to do it. And also, my four and a half years now in Barça are also special and I’m so happy just to say that it was the perfect way and if I have taken again this decision, of course, will be again the same one and I hope to be more years to come for me.
LaLiga: Did you feel pressure when you first arrive here? Were you nervous?
Rakitic: Not nervous, I try to know all the players, to be part of the dressing room and also to show them who I am, and what I can give to the team and then, step by step, win the confidence and then to start enjoy together on the pitch, I think, first of all it was really important that the people were so open and it was easy for me to get in this dressing room, so they do it so easy and I’m really thankful for this because is not easy, because to be part of the biggest team with the biggest players, sometimes you don’t know what you can expect, but it was really good, really easy, and it’s a big family, and also now day by day is really special to be here and I think that also every year with new players arrived I think they can feel that it’s a big dressing room.
LaLiga: Do you remember your first day, the first time that you walked inside the dressing room?
Rakitic: First of all, I was really happy, just to be here. I try to enjoy every moment. From the first day but also now, after four and a half years. When I get in the Ciutat Esportiva I am happy, I am happy to be here, I am happy to enjoy Barça, to enjoy every day. I don't want to expect so much. I get in to be how I am. They have to know Ivan Rakitic in the best way. The only thing is to try to enjoy, it's the biggest team in the world. Normally you will win a lot of games, you have to try to help these guys. If it's only with 1%, that's perfect, you will do your part. It is just amazing, for sure.
LaLiga: What was for you to come and win three huge titles?
Rakitic: I think you can’t expect the season. You can’t say that you will arrive at Barça and you will win everything, so also after these first months in Barcelona, I remember that in December and in January there are not our best months, and then we started to win every game, we started to play in a really good way, we don’t want to finish the season, we can remember after the Champions League final in Berlin, it was just to say let’s play again, let’s start the new season now, because we feel so strong, so we get the step by step, also with the new coach in the new season and it was really important for the team to feel so strong, to feel that there are a lot of big teams but you have something that all the other teams don’t have. So, you feel so strong, you enjoy every game and for this reason, we said: let’s start the next week the season again. Of course, you need the vacations and if you feel so good on the pitch and it’s really amazing for me and fans, of course.
LaLiga: I want to know your thoughts about Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets.
Rakitic: I think they are the best midfielders in the history, it's just to say they are really big players, but for me, bigger than the others, for how the way they live football, how the way what they are doing day by day to reach this level on the pitch, and also outside, of course. So, they are representing Barça 100% and to be with them, so close to them, you have to try to enjoy every minute with them, it was really special, they are also really open, they are really good guys, maybe there are not verbs to describe them in the best way, it was just to say: these guys are one hundred per cent football. I think all the other guys around the world, all people like the way how they... they don't play football, they enjoy football, because you can see them on the pitch and you never have the feeling that they are doing something with a big stress or something, they are really enjoying every moment and that's why they did it for maybe ten or fifteen years. For all midfield players, they are for sure big idols.
LaLiga: As a footballer, do you think that is more important to have an identity or is it better to be more open to adapting to changes?
Rakitic: If you can take every five years a new Xavi it's perfect, but is not so easy. I think that players like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Leo... all these guys coming from La Masia it's not so easy, it's not normal to have so much players in maybe five or six years with this special identity. So, of course it will be really cool for all Culés to say: next year we will have a new Leo, he's eighteen, he's already here from Cornellà. It's not so easy, I think also the level of the team of Barça it's going higher and higher, and it's not so easy to get these young players in the first team, but I think that all the people in Barcelona can be happy to have La Masia, all these guys working so hard and to be close to the first team. I think it's hard for the people to understand that to get every year the special talent it's not so easy. Of course, we would like that every two or three years have a new Xavi, a new Busquets and a new Puyol. But sometimes you have to wait and when the moment is coming for sure it will be new big players from La Masia.
LaLiga: So many people are comparing Arthur with Xavi, you play with him, do you think it can be true that he will be the next Xavi?
Rakitic: I saw once that Xavi told that he has something similar, so if Xavi explained in this way... Of course, they are different, but he is really sure with the ball, he tries to get the ball in every moment and there are also these movements with the ball that is like a new Xavi. We hope that he can get the same way as Xavi did but we have to give him time, he arrived six months ago from Brazil, from a different style to play, so just give him time, let him enjoy and then for sure he will be a big player.
LaLiga: Do you think that having a midfield with young players like Aleñà or Riqui Puig is really a source of pride for Barcelona?
Rakitic: Yes, it is. They are good guys, they are working really hard. Carles is part of the first team and Riqui he will be maybe in the next year or in two or three years for sure also part of the first team. So, there are a lot of big players and we know that these midfield players coming up from the second team, they have the special style of football, the Barça style. We don't have to give him more pressure, they have a lot of pressure, so the guys are playing, the guys are working in the best way, they will have for sure a lot of opportunities. Also, in the dressing room we help a lot these young players to come up to train with us, so let them enjoy and there are a lot of big players for the future, of course.
LaLiga: On a personal level, is there anything specific thing you want to achieve in this season, any personal goal?
Rakitic: I think I try to give my best in every moment, of course, every people likes to speak about the last games in the season and you have to be there at 100%, but I try to enjoy every moment, I try to give my best, I just want to have my team to get all the titles if it's possible, now we start big games, we are really happy to be in this situation, and then I hope that I score more goals, big moments for me and for the team and then hopefully we finally with big titles.
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