Are Ivan Rakitic and Inter Milan perfect for each other?
Background photo: DanHeap77, CC BY 2.0
Frenkie de Jong's signing marked the beginning of troubled times for Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona. The Croatian sank under the radar when the 22-year-old completed his mega-switch from Ajax to the Nou Camp this summer. Rakitic is now one of the least deployed superstars in the Blaugrana squad. The midfielder registers just 203 minutes across all competitions so far this season. Used far below his normal standard, the 31-year-old has his heart set far away from the club. Perhaps as much as 981 km away.
Rakitic still has a lot of football left in him. The time is ripe for him to leave the Nou Camp and quickly find another top club where he'd be relevant. Inter Milan could offer him an escape route.
Antonio Conte's admiration for the midfielder is hardly confidential information. Inter was heavily linked with a move for him during the summer transfer window. Rakitic remains one of the top players Conte desires in his squad.
The Nerazzurri are determined to make a statement in Serie A this season. They've started the campaign on a brilliant note. With 21 points from eight games, they currently sit second in the league table, level on points with Juventus, behind on goal difference.
Signing the Croatian would take the Nerazzurri a step closer to unseating the Old Lady. He could also help them to go a long way in the Champions League. For many reasons, the two parties are perfect for each other.
To begin, Rakitic doesn't have a tangible role under Ernesto Valverde. With Frenkie de Jong, Arthur Melo and Sergio Busquets dominating Barca's midfield while Carles Alena, Sergi Roberto and Arturo Vidal also vie for minutes, it doesn't look like that will change anytime soon. Meanwhile, Conte's midfield has depth issues. Stefano Sensi and Matias Vecino are injured. Antonio Candrevo is the most creative player remaining in the middle of the park but is accustomed to playing a wider role. Young Nicolo Barella  is the one other option for the former Chelsea and Juve boss. Rakitic would step right into the starting XI.
Rakitic is looking for playing time, not more money. He presents the Nerazzurri an opportunity to add a quality midfielder to their ranks without breaking the bank. Moving him would allow Barcelona to free up a roster spot to add support upfront or in defence.
The Croatian might also solve another problem for Inter, one that hasn't stung them just yet. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are tearing up Serie A with 11 goals between them. As Inter's lack of quality in midfield begins to tell, their scoring rate will drop. Lukaku especially is known as a player who disappears in big matches against top defenders. At West Brom, Everton and even Manchester United, however, he never had a proper playmaker to feed him. Rakitic can unlock the best defences like a safecracker with sandpapered fingers. If the Belgian gets better service against Juventus and in the Champions League, his reputation might suddenly, inexplicably vanish.
The two parties can't do much until January but feel each other out behind the scenes. Nevertheless, with both clubs and the player amenable, an Ivan Rakitic transfer to Inter seems like one of the easiest winter deals to come along in years.