Barcelona boss Valverde unsure about his future at the club

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Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has admitted he is unsure whether he will be coaching a team next season.

The 54-year-old did a domestic double in his first season, winning La Liga and Copa Del Rey. Halfway through his second season, Barcelona are on top of the La Liga table and through to the last 16 of Copa Del Rey and Champions League.

“Next season? I do not know my future or what I will be doing at that stage,” Valverde told Barcelona TV.

“In football you never know what will happen, things are fluid and you can never allow yourself to think in the long term.

“When you are in this business, two months is a very long time. Thoughts and feelings change on individual results – if you win things are great, if you lose everyone is sad and talking about you.

“I want everyone to be happy with my work and the work of my staff and my players, but in football there are no guarantees.

“If we do not meet our objectives – domestically and in Europe – people will look at the coach, it is the way things are.”

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Genoa's president rules out January transfer of breakout star Krzysztof Piatek

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Genoa president Enrico Preziosi insists “no-one will move until June” – and that includes Barcelona target Krzysztof Piatek.

Piatek has made a name for himself thanks to his incredible scoring spree since joining Genoa in the summer from Cracovia. The Polish international has scored 13 goals in Serie A this season and only Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more.

With age very much on his side, it has not taken long for the 23-year-old to be linked to a host of top European clubs including Barcelona. Juventus, Napoli and Chelsea have also popped up as potential suitors.

However, Genoa chief Preziosi has moved to shut the January transfer rumours down.

“No-one will move until June,” Preziosi told Il Secolo XIX.

“We need [Christian] Kouame, Piątek and [Gaston] Ramirez. So far there’s been a lot of talk, but no offers have arrived.”

Preziosi also spoke about potential incoming transfers.

“We need a pair of quality players in midfield, and we’ve made an offer for Rade Krunic,” he added.

“Stefano Sturaro is an idea we have and I’m convinced he could come. He’ll cost us a bit, but he’s an investment.”

“He won’t be ready for a month or two, because he’s got a problem with his achilles, but he wants to re-launch with us.”

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Ivan Rakitic is the overused and under-appreciated servant of Barcelona

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Ivan Rakitic

This year, one Croatia international created history by ending the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly in the coveted Ballon d’Or.

At the same time, another under-appreciated compatriot has made a case for being one of the best midfielders for the better part of the year.

A vital cog in Croatia’s fairy-tale run in the World Cup, Ivan Rakitic scored two decisive penalties in to ensure that the dream lived on.

The 30-year-old has been equally important at the club level, playing a key role in Barcelona’s successful start to the 2018/19 season.

A particular statistic serves as evidence to how immaculately he has played his role. No player in La Liga has attempted more passes than the Croatian (2676) in 2018. Also, the midfielder has more successful passes (2436) than any other player in the league.

He has played more minutes than any other player at the Catalan club in 2018 and has rarely looked out of touch. Regardless of whether Barcelona are hosting Cultural Leonesa in the Copa Del Rey or travelling to Wembley for a crucial Champions League fixture, head coach Ernesto Valverde ensures that Rakitic is the first name on the team-sheet.

This has caused annoyance among some Barcelona fans. A synergy of Valverde’s style of play and Rakitic’s conservative approach in executing his role has drawn some criticism.

The Croatian can function as a box-to-box midfielder, a deep lying playmaker or even a screen in front of defence in the absence of Sergio Busquets. However, there are some voids in his skill-set, most of which are desirable in midfielder who plies his trade for Barcelona.

Rakitic is not as press resistant as other players like Busquets, Lionel Messi or Arthur. The Croatian is not the best at interpreting and exploiting space in midfield, always preferring the safest option.

There is footage showing a frustrated Messi when the midfielder opts for a safer option, instead of threading the needle with a pass that sets the Argentine on goal.

Overused

Overused

Yet, the 30-year-old has fit in perfectly in Valverde’s system. The Croatian has often proved to be the most important player bar Messi, as he operates from the heart of midfield like a perpetual machine.

The two goals he has scored in the league this season hardly makes a case for why he must be considered as one of the best midfielders in the world. The consistency he has maintained over long durations of time despite starting almost every game is a testimony to why he is relied upon by Valverde.

Often, the Croatian has played as a cover for Busquets and allowed the Spaniard freedom to roam and make the risky passes. It is clear that the Octopus of Badia has not been himself lately and the Croatian has done well to cover up for him.

Delivering in crucial games, especially El Clasico, is yet another arrow in the midfielder’s quiver. He has outperformed Modric in almost all the Clasicos the pair have featured in. This again makes a strong case as to why the Croatian is preferred in midfield, despite other players on the bench and in the market boasting a wider skill set.

Croatia's midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric

Croatia’s midfielder Ivan Rakitic and Croatia’s midfielder Luka Modric

It is true that the midfielder is not a second-coming of the legendary Xavi. But downplaying his contributions to the team would be a bit of hyperbole.

There have been rumours that the Croatian will be testing himself in Ligue 1, donning Paris Saint-Germain’s colours next season.

In the unlikely event that this occurs, Rakitic will be leaving Barcelona as one of their best servants in the modern era.

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