Rakitic: What Florentino Perez is achieving is something to tip your hat to, there's a plan

Ivan Rakitic enjoyed one of the better LaLiga EA Sports careers during his time with both Sevilla and Barcelona, winning multiple trophies, although he now plies his trade in Saudi Arabia with Al-Shabab.

Having made the move that many former LaLiga greats did in the summer, he is now able to look back upon some of his key moments in Spain, most notably with the Blaugrana.

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However, he was also rather complimentary towards a former adversary in Real Madrid and Florentino Perez, commending him on the job he has done to build the current team at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with MARCA, the Croatian midfielder opened up on his new life in Saudi Arabia, as well as giving his own takes on the state of Spanish football.

Q: What is the first thing you noticed when you arrived in Riyadh?

A: “Love for football, desire and enthusiasm. That’s why I arrive here with a big smile on my face every day. I want to speak to you, to present what is happening here. People always talk about the money, but it’s really nice to see what they are doing day-by-day.”

Q: Do you feel excited about helping it grow?

A: “Very much so. I think that I, and I include almost all foreigners, come here to feel that excitement. Before arriving, I wanted to read everything that is happening in the country, not just in the 2030 vision, but everything that they have prepared for their people. I was left with an open mouth, the Crown Prince was to unite the continents, to show the world the treasure that Saudi Arabia has, and it is being done through sport. It’s going to be the center of the world of sport and football.”

Q: Has Saudi football surprised you?

A: “We have to understand that it’s not Europe, but it’s growing a lot. It’s not like playing in LaLiga with 40,000 fans. They have smaller stadiums, but there is a lot of passion and a lot of desire to see good football. I think that is the most beautiful thing for us. There are a lot of Saudi players with spectacular talent, we have to help them tactically and to understand the professional aspects.”

Q: How does Al-Shabab compare to Barcelona?

A: “It’s a club that is growing. Al-Shabab is the oldest club in Saudi Arabia with a prince and a president who live it in a spectacular way. They transmit it to you every day. They are involved in what is happening and that is very important to us.”

Q: What is different about Barcelona and Real Madrid now, how do you judge their struggles?

A: “It’s like when as a young boy you have a girlfriend and you don’t pay her much attention, but you don’t realize it until you lose her. Real Madrid have been able to do everything well, gradually, but Barcelona may have gone too fast. I’m convinced that Gavi and Pedri are going to be the future of the Barcelona and Spanish national teams, but I think that our help, as the old guys, would have been good for them.”

“I’m convinced that all those guys like Bellingham are very grateful for the daily learning they have with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.”

Q: Do you think Real Madrid will dominate for the foreseeable future?

A: “They have done the right things to have a solid team which can dominate for a few years. I speak with the utmost respect because they have been my rival for many, many years, but to see what Florentino Perez is achieving you have to tip your hat to him. They are getting what they want. There is a plan. Presidents don’t always get it right, but he got it right in his decisions, with the players, with the stadium and with everything around him. He has to be congratulated.”

Q: Who will win LaLiga EA Sports?

A: “Real Madrid, there is no doubt.”

Q: What about the Champions League?

A: “I’ve got more doubts about this… Barcelona.”

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