Ivan Rakitić, who plays as a central or attacking midfielder for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Croatia national team, became the first player ever to win the Champions League one year after winning the Europa League while playing for two different clubs. Here are some very interesting facts about the Croatian professional footballer:
He was born on March 10, 1988, in Mohlin, Switzerland, to Kata and Luka Rakitic. He has an older brother Dejan, also a footballer and a younger sister Nikol Rakitic.
His father is from Croatia who migrated to Switzerland before the war in Yugoslavia, and took a job at construction site. His mother is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Rakitic revealed to Spanish news website Sports that his wife saved him from Barcelona attack in August this year. He had planned to visit the area where the terror attack struck on that day, but timely intervention from his wife, Raquel Mauri made him return home.
He was not academically very bright and with his love for football, he decided to pursue career in sports. Though he did not hold any professional contract at that time but hoped Basel will give him one.
Rakitic started his professional career with Basel and spent two seasons with them. He made his debut on September 29, 2005, against Siroki Brijeg, in the UEFA Cup and was part of the team which drubbed Neuchatel Xamax, 5-1 on April 15, 2006 in the Swiss Super League.
His 30th minute goalin a 2-1 win against St. Gallen, on October 22, 2006, was voted as Swiss Goal of the Year. He was the second leading scorer for Basel with 11 goals in 33 appearances and was named the best young player of the Super League season.
On June 22, 2007, he moved to German club, FC Schalke 04, for a deal worth € 5 million and made his debut against Karsruher SC, on July 21. He was booked in his very match.
Though Rakitic register his name in the ‘Budesliga’ with a goal on August 10, 2007 against VfB Stuttgart in a 2-2 draw, he had scored his first competitive goal for Schalke was in 9-0 drubbing of Eintracht in the first round of DFB-Pokal.
Before the important last group stage match against Rosenborg, on December 11, 2007, of the UEFA Championship League, Rakitic along with Mladen Krstajic were temporarily suspended from the squad for skipping training and taking part in late-night partying.
On January 28, 2011, he signed a four and half year contract with Spanish La Liga club Sevillafor a deal worth € 2.5 million and made his debut for the club on February 06 against Malaga CF.
A day before his contract negotiation with Sevilla, he spend a day at the Spanish lounge cum bar on January 27. As he ordered coffee a beautiful waitress served him cake and he was cupid struck. She was his future wife Raquel Mauri.
He married his girlfriend Raquel Mauri in April 2013 after two years of dating and they have two daughters, Althea and Adara.
With the change of coach before 2011-12, seasonnew tactical schemes were introduced and he was given different role. From being central midfielder he was used more as a defensive midfielder, resulting in one goal with six assists in 39 appearances. This is the only goalless Liga season for him.
The 2012-13, season was much better not only in terms of goals. He finished the season with an impressive eight goals and 10 assists. He created 100 chances in total and ranked fourth across all players in Europe in terms of chances created.
Rakitic was promoted as captain for the 2013-14, season and impressed with his form. He led Sevilla to the UEFA Europa League title with a 4-2 win over Benfica on May 14, 2014 and was named in the Europa League Squad of the season.
He ended the season with 15 goals and 17 assists and with the player of the month in January he was one of the nominees for Best Midfielder award. Nevertheless he won the ‘Fair Play’ award and made it to the Team of the Season.
On June 16, 2014, he was signed-up by Barcelona on a five years contract and made his debut in a pre-season friendly on August 02.
On June 06, 2015, he scored the opening goal in a 3-1 win against Juventus to lift the 2015 UEFA Champions League title. He was named in the Liga BBVA ideal XI and was one of the eight Barcelona players in the European League squad of the season for the second time.
In October 2015, he was voted Croatian Footballer of the Year for 2015, according to choice of Vecernji list. The player of the year is selected by jury of 11 former footballers with Rakitic winning among 44 choices with 105 points.
In December, he scooped the Croatian sportsman of the Year for 2015, in recognition of his superb performances for the past 12 months. He is the fifth footballer to be awarded the honors.
Rakitic hold dual citizenship of Switzerland and Croatia andhad represented country of his birth in the under-17, under-19 and under-21 national teams before switching allegiance to Croatia.
Apart from racism the rejection of his father’s Swiss citizenship application prompted Rakitic to leave Swiss. Also the political climate in Switzerland football association and the country at large didn’t help the cause.
He made his Croatian national tem debut on September 08, 2007 in the 2008 UEFA qualifier against Estonia in Zagreb, as 65 minute substitute. He scored his first international goal on September 12, in 6-0 drubbing of Andorra.
His family was subjected to threat by phone calls and emails for months after he wore Croatian jersey. According to him the Swiss consider them to be Yugoslavians and my family was told to go back.
He scored three goals in ten appearances in Croatia’s unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. He was also part of 2012 European championship, where his missed opportunity against Spain, eliminated them from the tournament.
Despite his best effort in the 2016 European Championship, Croatia could not manage to go past Round of 16 losing out to Portugal with extra time goal from Quaresma. He felt ‘the best team is going home.’
Making his debut in 2005, Rakitic has scored 88 goals in 514 appearances playing for four different clubs. He also scored 13 goals in 88 matches for national team.
Rakitic was named in the fourth team of FIFPro-XI of 2016. They were selected based on the number of votes received among 26,514 professional footballers.
He has an intention of leaving Barcelona, his current club, if they sign-up Philippe Coutinho. He does not fancy himself playing second fiddle to Liverpool ace should he arrive.
According to ESPN’s analytical formula that combines endorsement with social media following and popularity, Rakitic is ranked # 50th among World Fame 100 list of 2017.