The Croatian midfielder left Sevilla for Barcelona in the summer of 2014 after leading them to victory in the Europa League.
He returned after six trophy-laden seasons in Catalonia in the summer of 2020, to the club of his heart and the city of his wife.
His return was celebrated by supporters who never forgot him, but his first season back in Andalusia wasn’t up to his usual standards. It can be defined as solid rather than spectacular.
But this season he’s shown a different face. Rakitic has worked closely with Julen Lopetegui to find a system that maximises his talents, and it’s paid off handsomely in these past two months.
Rakitic was superb at the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid and scored the opening goal – an absolute stunner – during their defeat of Atletico Madrid. He was also excellent against Barcelona.
Rakitic is playing a role closer to what he used to play during his first spell with Sevilla than what he played at Barcelona – more advanced, leading attacks rather than starting them. It works.
And given Jesus Navas is currently out injured for an unspecified period of time, Rakitic is also wearing the captain’s armband. And he is a true leader – in spirit and in deed.