Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic does not believe it is possible for him to replace Xavi at Camp Nou.
Club icon Xavi ended his illustrious career at the Catalan giants at the end of last season, with Croatia international Rakitic brought in to bolster central areas in his absence.
The former Sevilla man’s maiden campaign with Barca could scarcely have been a more roaring success as he turned in countless authoritative and assured performances to help Luis Enrique’s team collect the Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.
But Rakitic, who opened the scoring in the Champions League final triumph over Juventus, refuses to place himself on the same level as Xavi or the latter’s long-time partner in crime and his own current midfield ally Andres Iniesta.
“To replace Xavi is impossible,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “I want to give what I can give. I want to be Ivan Rakitic. Not Xavi or Iniesta. They have other qualities. I want to give what I can do.
“We are speaking about Xavi and he is the symbol of the club. He has been for 20 years. Not only for what he did on the pitch, where he was unbelievable, but for the dressing room, how he spoke and what he means to the club. He was our leader.
“He was the man. And now he is not here. So, of course, it has changed. But it was maybe the best moment because he left with every title, all the titles. Maybe it was the perfect moment.”
Rakitic is currently in a race to prove his fitness following a calf injury in order to take part in El Clasico against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
The 27-year-old showed patience in his aims to reach such rarefied levels during his early career, when he claims to have rejected potential moves to Juventus and Chelsea in order to hone his craft with Swiss club Basel.
“It was important for me to do it step by step,” he said. “First of all to arrive in the first team in Switzerland because I had, at 16 years of age, a big offer to go to Chelsea.
“And another offer from Juventus and I decided to stay at home with my family. Then I first had to get into the Super League in Switzerland and after that the next step.
“At that time, when I was 15, 16, I decided it was important to have my family. It might not have been the best decision for everyone but it was the right one for me.”