Ivan Rakitic: Play with composure and control

Barcelona’s Croatian conductor tells you how to prepare for the midfield battle and find clear routes amid the traffic

Prepare and be positive
“If we’re playing in the evening, I make sure I eat right during the day and rest with a siesta. Then I will have a shower, either at the hotel or at my house. Sometimes I’ll listen to music with the other players, but I don’t put headphones on. I do also like to have some time alone, though, so I can really focus. Doing all these things helps me build momentum and feel positive. It fills me with energy before a game.”

Get in gear to build unstoppable momentum

Pass with confidence
“To play the right passes, either difficult or simple, you must have confidence in your ability. There are a lot of tricky ones you have to give to your strikers – the killer pass – and you’ll only be able to do that if you have the self-belief to take a risk. There are a couple of simple drills you can do to help you with this. Play two-touch during possession exercises and master rondos to help you find the rhythm of the game.”

More after the break

Practise playing the ball with conviction

Play with intelligence
“There are a lot of things to think about in central midfield. For example, when your right-back is going forward, you have to cover him. As soon as you lose possession, work hard as a team to win the ball back quickly. In attack, with the ball at your feet, set the tempo – know when to drive forward and when to be patient. Overcommit in attack at the wrong time and you will leave yourself and your team exposed.” 

Do what the game demands

Relish the challenge
“Remember you’re doing what you like to do. Playing football is my job and there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that, but I love it. When I’m out on the pitch I say to myself: “I’m here and I like to be here.” But just because football is fun, that doesn’t mean you can take it easy. At Barcelona we can’t say: ‘OK, we’re 2-0 up – let’s go and get a coffee!’ We have to play with the same intensity from start to finish.” 

Relax – it’s meant to be fun

Don’t get flustered
“You will make mistakes and have bad moments during a game – this is normal in football. But you 
have to recover quickly. If you play a bad pass, the first 5-10 seconds afterwards are crucial. Don’t dwell on it; forget it and work to win the ball back. To avoid losing possession in the first place, know what you’re going to do with the ball before you receive it. Don’t receive the pass and then try to decide what to do with it.”

Keep your cool if you lose the ball

Stay mentally strong
“You get a lot of confidence from seeing the opposition tire. This is when you have to take advantage and push yourself harder. You need to have energy reserves in the tank so that you’re ready. The game is so fast, you don’t have time to think – even if you’re struggling or playing badly, you have to say: ‘There are 10 minutes left; I can give more’. This is when a lot of games are won and lost, so you have to find an extra 10 percent".

Dig deep when fatigue sets in


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