Former Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic has named Lionel Messi as the greatest footballer of all time, across all eras in an interview with FIFA.com. The Croatian labeled Messi as the only 'number one' in football, adding how grateful he was for having shared the dressing room with the Argentine for six years at Barcelona.
Rakitic, now a part of Sevilla, thanked Messi for all he had done and stated that one should watch and 'enjoy' the Barcelona skipper in action as there is no one on his level.
Rakitic also shared a personal account of his time at Camp Nou, saying that he cherished every moment at the club. Having appeared in over 300 matches, the 32-year-old feels he was a part of the history of the club.
Thank you for everything, Leo: Former Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic
After a successful four-year spell at Sevilla, Rakitic joined Spanish giants Barcelona in 2014. He amassed more than 30 appearances in each of his six seasons, chipping in with a total of 36 goals across all competitions.
Rakitic was the defensive screen for Barcelona, someone who could cover a lot of ground and switch from defense to attack at a high speed. His eye for a long ball or a switch of play opened up the opposition many a time, with Messi often applying the finishing touches to the Rakitic's moves.
The Croatian won four La Liga titles and a Champions League while playing alongside Messi. The pair also worked together to clinch six domestic cups for Barcelona.
Hailing the legendary winger, former Barcelona star Rakitic said:
"One hundred per cent football. It doesn’t matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He’s on another level. With all respect to the other greats, there’s only one number one – it’s Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream."
Rakitic continued, expressing his gratitude to the Barcelona captain.
"I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: ‘Thank you for everything, Leo, because you’ll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you.'"
Rakitic was offloaded prior to the start of the current season after being deemed surplus to requirements at the club. His time at Barcelona may not have ended the way he would have liked, but Rakitic admitted that he appreciated every moment at the club.
Rakitic finished the interview by talking about his time at Barcelona and said:
"Six years, 311 games – the foreigner with the fourth-most games after Messi, Dani Alves and Mascherano – 13 titles. I think I can say that I’m part of the history of the club. I got so much out of those six years. I will have Barcelona – the club, the city, the people – in my heart for the rest of my life. I’m really proud of my time there and will always cherish it."
Rakitic and Sevilla take on Celta Vigo at home tomorrow, while Barcelona face-off against Atletico Madrid in this week's blockbuster clash.
Published 20 Nov 2020, 18:52 IST