Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, just signed this summer, reportedly turned down moves to Arsenal and Manchester City in the winter window, according to Spanish paper El Mundo Deportivo.
Rakitic has become an important part of the Barcelona midfield, and with reports saying he is happy in Spain – the home country of his wife – the Croatian chose to stay.
It’s unclear why Barcelona would have wanted to sell a man who has garnered 19 league appearances and 10 full 90’s – especially given their transfer embargo would keep them from replacing him – but it’s very clear why the Premier League was gunning for his services: it would fill big holes.
Manchester City could use a midfielder able to go forward, with Yaya Toure busy in Africa and having an up and down year, and James Milner potentially leaving this summer. Arsenal, meanwhile, is suffering from a dip in form from a potentially tired/injured Alexis Sanchez, and Mesut Ozil has gone in and out of confidence all year long. An emergence of Tomas Rosicky as a starting option has helped the Gunners, but Rakitic would be a fantastic option through the middle.
Manchester United would also likely have been interested, with their attacking midfield a place of need as well. The Red Devils are leaving Wayne Rooney in the midfield despite Louis van Gaal’s admission that he remains the best striker on the club. The presence of a creative central midfielder in Rakitic would free Rooney up to move forward during the times when van Persie and Falcao are struggling or injured.
Rakitic has a 90% pass completion rate this season, and while he’s only assisted five goals and created 21 chances, he’s been used as more of a midfield distributor. He’s performed so well recently that he’s essentially broken up the Xavi/Iniesta partnership in the Barcelona midfield, pushing one of those two to the bench in each of Barcelona’s last five matches. The Premier League could come calling again in the summer, but it’s hard to see the 26-year-old leaving the Camp Nou anytime soon.