SEVILLE, Spain – Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic said on Thursday his best years were yet to come as he was officially unveiled ahead of his second stint with Sevilla following his transfer from Barcelona.
Rakitic signed a contract with this year’s Europa League winners until 2024 and previously plied his trade with the Andalusian club between 2011-2014.
The Croatian international, 32, joined club president Jose Castro and sporting director Ramon Rodriguez, better known as Monchi, for his first official press conference.
“I’ve had six incredible years at Barcelona. I’m very grateful and it’s not just important that it was the right time for me, but also the club. I think it’s the perfect time, I think I have my best years ahead of me and I’m very excited. It was the right moment for both parties and now we have to look forward, work hard and turn excitement into great results,” he said.
“I’ve been lucky to have played in big matches and have achieved many titles, even being runners-up in the World Cup with my country. I’m more mature, more confident, and I’ve got a lot of football left to play. I’m sure that, in terms of rating, the Ivan that’s joining is better than the last one.”
He said he had spoken to Sevilla’s head coach Julen Lopetegui on the phone. The Spanish manager helped the team to qualify for the Champions League after finishing fourth in LaLiga and then guided them to capture the club’s sixth Europa League title last season.
“He has welcomed me and it was pleasant to talk to him, but I hope to see him in the next few days and set everything else straight. I’m joining like everyone else, to work hard, to fight, to give my all and be available for Lopetegui,” Rakitic said.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to meet that expectation. We have to keep taking steps; above all, I’m joining to help the team and the organization to try to take the next step,” he added.
Arriving in Sevilla on Tuesday, Rakitic paid tribute to former Sevilla player Jose Antonio Reyes, who was killed in a car crash in 2019 and would have turned 37 on Sept. 1, the day the Croatian’s transfer deal was completed.
On the prospect of being given Reyes’ old number, he said: “I want to respect the order of my teammates. We’ll talk about the number, but it would be very special if I could link up with Jose Antonio. The number 11 is also special for me here, but right now it’s the least of my worries.”
Barcelona said on Monday Sevilla would pay €1.5 million ($1.8 million) for the transfer of the 32-year-old as well as €9 million in variables.
In his previous stint with Sevilla, Rakitic played 149 matches, scoring 32 goals and setting up 41 assists.
For Barcelona, he made 310 appearances, in which he scored 35 goals and provided 42 assists, winning the Spanish league four times and the Champions League once.