Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic has given his seal of approval for the signing of Barcelona target Antoine Griezmann.
The Frenchman announced his decision to leave Atletico Madrid earlier this month, and Barcelona are said to be in pole position to obtain his services after failing to do so last season.
Rakitic admitted to holding the forward in high regard, despite having to watch the France star celebrate as a runner-up at the 2018 World Cup podium.
“I would love to have Griezmann on my team,” Rakitic told Mundo Deportivo.
“Aside from the fact that last year he pushed me away from my dream of winning the World Cup, I really like him.
“He’s a top level player, one of the best in the world. He’s won almost everything and can add to any team.”
Griezmann has been here before, having turned last summer’s transfer saga into a documentary before deciding to stick with Atletico ahead of Barca for one more year. But this does not change Rakitic’s opinion of Griezmann.
“That wasn’t a decision against Barcelona or anyone,” Rakitic explained.
“It was taken in favour of Atletico Madrid. I congratulate him for that and if he comes here I’ll shake his hand and tell him that I respect him for the decision.”
Ernesto Valverde hopes Barcelona‘s 2-2 draw at Eibar will serve as a wake-up call ahead of the Copa del Rey final.
Lionel Messi scored a quick-fire double after Marc Cucurella’s opener, but the champions were pegged back in the last game of their LaLiga campaign by Pablo De Blasis’ equaliser.
Barca head to Seville to face Valencia next Saturday as they look to win a record fifth straight Copa del Rey.
And manager Valverde knows his side will have to improve if they are to complete another domestic double.
“All the matches serve (as tests), but Saturday’s match will be different because the teams are different and because this was marked by the fact that Eibar didn’t play for anything,” Valverde said at his press conference, according to Marca.
“We tried to gauge the intensity of the game and we were good in the first half, but in the second half we couldn’t overcome the pressure and we had fewer chances and we made dangerous mistakes.
“We are ready for the final and the game served us well because we were put in our place.”
Messi’s brace took him to 50 goals for the campaign in all competitions.
He ended the league campaign with 36 goals and claimed the top-scorer award for a record-equalling sixth time.
He ended the game playing alongside 21-year-old Barcelona B forward Carles Perez, who came off the bench to make his first-team debut.
He said, according to Marca: “I’m so happy, it has been an unforgettable moment that I will always remember.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get my debut this season, but the boss just said to be calm.
“I’m not used to playing on the left, but it felt good in the end.”
Barcelona confirmed right-back Nelson Semedo had “been taken to hospital for routine tests after sustaining a head injury” during the game.
On his squad’s other injuries, Valverde said: “We think that (Marc-Andre) Ter Stegen will be fine for the final and, while I don’t know about (Philippe) Coutinho, it will be difficult for (Ousmane) Dembele to play. I don’t know about Arthur.”
Eibar boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, whose side finished the campaign in 12th, said: “We have got a point that we had never achieved and we have also scored two goals against them, something we did not do against Barcelona either.
“I am happy with the game, we had our chances to win, but the draw is good.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Barcelona ended their season with a 2-2 draw against Eibar in a match they could have easily lost, as the Basque side harried Ernesto Valverde’s team throughout.
It fell to Lionel Messi, who else, to rescue his team, as he cancelled out Eibar’s opener – scored by Marc Cucurella, on loan from Barcelona – and then gave his team the lead in a spell that saw him score twice in two minutes, only for Pablo de Blasis to equalise with a long-range stunner.
Here’s a look at how the Barca players rated.
Jasper Cillessen 4 – Made one outstanding save, but not enough to make up for his two errors. A weak attempted save saw Cucurella’s shot go in off his wrist, then his poor clearance allowed Pablo de Blasis to score wonderfully from distance.
Nelson Semedo 6 – Compromised his game with an poor challenge that earned him a yellow card, likely why he was taken off at half-time. But was solid in defence, otherwise.
Gerard Pique 7 – Pique was playing like a full-back at times, in intent if not actual position. His effort to get involved in attack was impressive, and he was Barcelona’s best man in defence as well.
Clement Lenglet 5 – A sloppy display from Lenglet, who struggled to handle Eibar’s press. Redeemed his display with a few excellent tackles.
Jordi Alba 6 – Eibar targeted his flank at times as they knew Alba would be upfield in attack – and he didn’t have an effective display on that side of the pitch, either.
Arturo Vidal 7 – A superb slide-rule pass to set up Messi’s first goal, along with his usual busy display in midfield, brought to an end an excellent – if it at times frustrating – first season at Barcelona for Vidal.
Sergio Busquets 6 – A display that summed up the player Busquets is at the moment. When given time on the ball, he remains one of the best conductors in world football. However, he struggled at times under the Eibar press.
Ivan Rakitic 7 – Rakitic’s work rate was astonishing. If this was his final game in a Barcelona shirt, it was a fitting way to sign off: the Croat covered every blade of grass, set up Messi for his second, and could even be seen winning crucial headers in his box.
Sergi Roberto 6 – Thrust into an unfamiliar role on the right of Barcelona’s attack
Lionel Messi 9 – Nearly ended the season with a hat-trick, blazing over in the second half when presented with the chance to score the winner. What had come before was typical Messi: two excellent runs; one ended with a simple finish and the other with a sublime dink over the keeper.
Malcom 5 – Squandered one excellent opportunity, caught in two minds as he was through on goal only to produce neither an accurate shot nor a simple square pass to Pique. Malcom’s display summed up in one moment.
Lionel Messi has scored 50 goals in all competitions this season 🐐 pic.twitter.com/c4nMd2QzAD— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 19, 2019
Moussa Wague 7 – An encouraging performance from Wague, who got into attack as often as would be expected of a Barcelona full-back but also produced crucial interventions in defence.
Carles Alena 6 – Composed passing in the middle of the park after coming on for Busquets. Nothing spectacular, but enough to make people wonder what he would do with a proper run in the side.
Carles Perez 6 – Came on late in the game for Malcom to make his Barcelona debut and was instantly involved in an attack, a good sign, as he played a few neat passes alongside Messi and Roberto.