Former Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has admitted that was never 'close friends' with former teammates Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Speaking to El Desmarque about his time at Barcelona, Rakitic said:
"My relationship with them [Messi and Suarez] was never one of close friends. I believe that's hard in a group of 23 or 24 players.
“My closest friends were Andres Iniesta, [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen, [Kevin-Prince] Boateng and Junior Firpo last season."
However, Rakitic insisted that the lack of a close-knit bond with the duo didn't necessarily indicate that he was on bad terms with them.
In fact, the Sevilla midfielder made it a point to mention that he respects them greatly for what they've achieved on the football pitch. He said:
“But I respect them both. They were my team-mates for six years and are very important players. I've always got on incredibly well and have the utmost respect for them.
“During the coronavirus lockdown, we've all been very close together, almost neighbours. I'm very thankful for how they've treated me over the years."
Rakitic left Barcelona for La Liga Sevilla this summer in a deal that cost €1.5 million initially, but could rise to around €10.5 million. The 32-year-old midfielder spent six years at the club, winning 16 trophies, including four La Liga titles and the Champions League.
Lionel Messi U-turn gives Barcelona hope after Vidal, Rakitic leave
Lionel Messi was very nearly part of a group of senior players that have left or are on their way out of Barcelona.
Arturo Vidal has left for Inter Milan, while Rakitic has re-joined Sevilla.
Luis Suarez has been deemed surplus to requirements by new coach Ronald Koeman, but it remains to be seen if he will leave the club after a deal with Juventus broke down. The striker is now being linked with a move to Atletico Madrid.
Lionel Messi also had one step out of the door and went to the extent of publicly claiming that he wanted to leave Barcelona. He also said that the club that had no discernible football project.
However, La Liga and Barcelona insisted that he would not be allowed to leave on a free as stipulated on his contract. Instead, interested clubs would have to pay out the entire €700 million should they seek to complete the transfer.
Faced with a decision of either taking Barcelona to court or honouring and seeing out his contract that runs till the end of the 2020-21 season, Messi backed down and announced his decision to stay at the club.Published 22 Sep 2020, 19:09 IST