As of this current moment, no deals have officially been struck for either one of these two midfielders. Cesc Fabregas appears on the brink of completing a £32million move to Premier League Chelsea, freeing us space in Barcelona’s midfield for £15million man Ivan Rakitic. But is Rakitic a suitable replacement for the departing Spaniard?
I’ll begin with what Barcelona will be losing. Since returning to the Catalan club back in 2011, Fabregas has been a regular in the Barcelona side. He spent his early years back under Guardiola, who played him in the false nine formation that made Barcelona so successful. In three years, Fabregas has had three managers at the Nou Camp, and he managed to keep his position under all three of them. In terms of this season, Fabregas was used mainly as a central midfielder, but the false nine position has become a season position for the Spaniard. With 13 league assists and a 87% pass success rate, Fabregas put himself right back in amongst the best midfielders in World football, and putting him joint second in league assists this season. He had a weaker second half of the season, spending a lot more time on the subs bench, and it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Barcelona said they were looking to offload the 27 year old, leaving plenty of teams worldwide licking their lips at the prospect of having a Fabregas in their team.
Now I’ll move onto the second man in the hat, Ivan Rakitic. Born in Switzerland and representing them at youth level, Rakitic pledged his future to Croatia. Since then, his career’s taken off and after moving to Sevilla in January 2011, Rakitic has been a first-team regular in the side ever since. Rumours started to circulate in the summer that the Croatian would leave Sevilla, but pledged his loyalty for the club, only to go on and have his best season yet. This season has once again opened interest from all other Europe, but Barcelona look set to complete a £15million deal, incredibly cheap for a player with his credentials. This season, he played slightly more advanced than before, featuring the majority of his league games in the attacking midfield position, also guiding Sevilla to a Europa League trophy. With 12 league goals and 10 assists to his name this season, Rakitic was one of only 15 players in Europe who managed double figures in both goals and assists. Despite this, ,Sevilla still only managed 5th, and the Europa League again, so it is believed that Rakitic, now 26, is desperate to be playing in the Champions League.
So when you put the two together, if these two deals go ahead, is Rakitic an adequate replacement for Fabregas? Well, it’s hard to say. This season, the two have been playing slightly different roles at their club team, mainly due to Lionel Messi getting to play where he wants at Barcelona. This, I feel, will be exactly the same for Rakitic, and if he is too play, it’ll be in the midfield, still behind the likes of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta in the pecking order, with Song still hanging around. Solely looking at the facts, Fabregas isn’t matched by Rakitic, despite more game time, but he also doesn’t have the calibre of players mentioned above and more, getting him the assists and setting him up for the goals he deserves.
In terms of the passing stats, Fabregas wins hands down, but the fact Rakitic has created more chances than Fabregas and has less assists, proves exactly what I just said about the difference in quality around them. Aside from the stats, both are fantastic players at what they do. Similar in that they both want to play the killer ball rather than take a man on, the two go hand in hand when considering top attacking midfielders in Europe. Rakitic, for me, has more of an all-round look to his game, with the ability to score more goals, and break play up, something Fabregas shies away from. With the likes of Busquets and Song, Rakitic could be the central midfielder that can break play up, but can also play the kind of attractive football Barcelona have made so popular in recent years.
Overall, to answer the question can Rakitic replace Fabregas, it’s a yes. If the question was are Barcelona getting a better player, I’d say no. I don’t think the two are very different at all, and like I said, with Rakitic adapting his game at Barcelona, I see him being almost identical, in terms of stats, to the departing Spaniard. It’s a financial win for Barcelona, purchasing Rakitic for less than half of what they’ll get for Fabregas is a great business decision, but in terms of footballing reasons, I can’t see their being much of an influence at all.