Ivan Rakitic has stressed to FourFourTwo the importance of keeping Barcelona magician Lionel Messi happy at Camp Nou.
After a ‘below par’ 2013/14 campaign - scoring 28 La Liga goals compared to 46 and 50 in the previous two seasons - the 28-year-old Messi was back to his mesmeric best to help the Catalans capture a league, cup and Champions League treble.
The four-time Ballon d'Or winner responded with 43 league goals in 2014/15 on top of 10 in the Champions League and a further five in the Copa del Rey, which included a stunning solo run and finish in the final against Athletic Bilbao.
Having already scored two direct free-kicks against Sevilla in the UEFA Super Cup, the Argentine appears content and in the mood for more success.
And Croatia interational Rakitic, who capped a dream debut season with Luis Enrique’s side by scoring the opening goal in Barca's Champions League final victory over Juventus in Berlin, says it’s key to keep their iconic No.10 smiling off the pitch in order for him to continue wreaking havoc on it.
“To speak about Leo is... [pauses] well, it’s difficult to find the words!” he says in the October 2015 issue of FourFourTwo - available now.
There are a lot of good players. You have to be careful with him, because every team in the world would like to have him. We have to take care of him and make sure he’s happy, because if he’s happy then he’ll be even better on the pitch
“You’re talking about the greatest player in the history of our sport. You have to enjoy being on the pitch with Leo, and if you can also help him be a little bit better, that’s perfect. We all want to work together to win more titles. There are a lot of good players, and a lot of great players, but there’s only one Leo Messi. You have to be careful with him, because every team in the world would like to have him. We have to take care of him and make sure he’s happy, because if he’s happy then he’ll be even better on the pitch.”
Rakitic arrived at Camp Nou having helped Sevilla win back-to-back Europa League titles, and admits to feeling the pressure of playing behind an attacking trio that plundered 122 goals between them in all competitions last season.
“They are the best players in the world, and among the best in the history of football, but they have different qualities so it’s not always so easy.
"The most important thing is that when we all get together, we make one strong team; if we have to defend, we defend together, and we attack together too. But when those three guys have the ball one-on-one, they’re killers.”
Read the full interview with Ivan Rakitic in the October 2015 issue of FourFourTwo, in which he reveals how we could have joined Chelsea earlier in his career. The issue also features exclusive interviews with Chelsea midfielder Willian and Bayern Munich schemer Thiago, celebrates 60 years of the European Cup, hears from Raul in America and goes One-on-One with Jimmy Bullard. Subscribe!