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Ivan Rakitić (born 10 March 1988) is a Croatianmarker footballer who plays for Schalke 04 and the Croatian national team.

Born in Mohlinmarker, he started his professional career at Swissmarker giants Basel and spent two seasons with them before establishing popularity for his current time in the German Bundesliga with Schalke 04. Although naturally a product of Switzerland's youth level, Rakitić pledged his international career to his native parentage of Croatiamarker instead.

Early life

Rakitić was born to a multi-origin family. His parents are Croats who emigrated to Switzerland before the war in Croatia. His father, Luka, and his family are originally from Sikirevcimarker, while his mother's family are Bosnian Croats from Žepčemarker. Ivan spent his childhood and early career in Switzerland. Ivan's father and older brother were also footballers. With such a background, it was no surprise when Rakitić took a strong interest in the same aspirations, even as he was completing his primary school studies. Subsequent to doing so, he began to concentrate on his sporting career, with his family's encouragement. At age 16, he was noticed by top European scouts who acclaimed his young potential, although he and his family decided to stay in Basel to allow him to play more regularly in a smaller league instead.

Club career

FC Basel

After spending some short time in the youth teams, Rakitić went on to make his first-team debut for FC Basel on 29 September 2005 during the UEFA Cup away match at Široki Brijeg. He made his first Swiss Super League appearance on 15 April 2006 in Basel's away match against Neuchâtel Xamax. Although these two matches were the only ones he played during his first professional season with Basel, he went on to establish himself as a regular contribution in his second season, scoring 11 goals in 33 Super League appearances. Also making nine UEFA cup appearances during this time, he was named the best young player of the 2006–07 Super League season along with receiving the Swiss 'Goal of the Year' award for an impressive goal he scored against St Gallen.

Schalke 04

After an impressive showing as a teenager, Rakitić was again acclaimed by large European clubs who expressed interest in his young ability. Subject to such, he was eventually signed by German side Schalke 04 on 22 June 2007. He was seen by their head coach, Mirko Slomka, to be a replacement for Brazilianmarker midfielder Lincoln, who left the club for Galatasaray.

He made his debut for Schalke on 21 July 2007 in the Premiere Ligapokal fixture against Karlsruher, and eventually appeared in the remaining two matches as Schalke finished runners-up. On 5 August 2007, Rakitić scored his first competitive goal for his new club in their 9–0 away win over Eintracht Trier in the first round of the German Cup.

On 10 August 2007, the new Bundesliga season was commenced with a clash between champions Stuttgart and Schalke. Rakitić came on as a second half substitute and scored his first Bundesliga goal within just seven minutes on the field, as his side eventually contracted a 2–2 draw. On 15 September 2007, he managed to make impressions again by scoring the only goal for Schalke in their 1–1 away draw at Bayern Munich. Three days later, Rakitić made his Champions League debut in the 1–0 home defeat to Valencia. He then went on to make a total of seven appearances in the 2007-08 Champions League season, including a strong and very impressive midfield role in Schalke's home fixture against Chelsea in the group stage. He and current teammate Mladen Krstajic were temporarily cut from the squad the night before Schalke's next fixture against Rosenborgmarker due to being caught skipping training and taking part in a late night partying. Helping his side prevail in the penalty shootout against Porto to reach the quarter finals for the first time, Rakitić had to miss both the fixtures of such against Barcelona due to an ankle injury sustained in training. He was kept out of action for a month as Schalke were eliminated from the tournament without him.

Shortly upon returning from injury, Rakitić discovered top form as he scored a goal and assisted another two in the vital 3–0 victory at Bochum, which made sure Schalke finished at least third in league table and secured a place in the next Champions League. He continued such form in the next fixture against Eintracht Frankfurt, assisting Mladen Krstajić for the only goal of the match to conclude with Schalke a positive home season. In total, he finished his first Bundesliga season with three goals and ten assists in 29 appearances.

The subsequent season started well for Rakitić as he played in Schalke's 3–0 victory over Hannover 96, assisting two goals in the opening fixture.

International career

Although he had previously competed with the Swiss under-17, under-19 and under-21 national teams, Rakitić decided to take up the call by Slaven Bilić and play for the Croatia at senior level. His decision to decline the original country of his birth sparked much anger from the Swiss Football Association. So much so that he and his family received common threats and his father was reportedly even denied Swiss citizenship.

He made his debut for Croatia on 8 September 2007 in their Euro 2008 qualifier against Estonia in Zagrebmarker, highly praised by the fans as he was entering the game as a substitute. In Croatia's following qualifier, a 6–0 away win over Andorra on September 12, 2007, he scored his first international goal for Croatia in only his second appearance for the team. He finished the year 2007 with five senior international caps to his name, four of which were in the successful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

In early May 2008, he was added to Croatia's squad for the Euro 2008 tournament in Austria and Switzerland, where he was the second-youngest player. He made his first appearance at the tournament as a starter against Germany, and eventually provided a shot which ricocheted off the post and allowed teammate Ivica Olić to score the second goal in their 2–1 victory. Though playing a strong role against Turkey in the quarter finals of the tournament, Rakitić went on to miss one of the three unsuccessful penalties in the shootout, thus leading to a victory for Turkey.

International goals

# Date Venue Opponent Score Result Competition
01. 12 September 2007 Estadi Comunalmarker, Andorra la Vellamarker
0 – 6
0 – 6
2008 Euro Qualifying
02. 20 August 2008 Ljudski vrtmarker, Maribormarker, Sloveniamarker
1 – 1
2 – 3
Friendly
03. 20 August 2008 Ljudski vrtmarker, Maribormarker, Sloveniamarker
2 – 3
2 – 3
Friendly
04. 15 October 2008 Maksimir Stadiummarker, Zagrebmarker, Croatiamarker
0 – 1
0 – 4
2010 World Cup Qualifying
05. 15 October 2008 Maksimir Stadiummarker, Zagrebmarker, Croatiamarker
0 – 4
0 – 4
2010 World Cup Qualifying
06. 11 February 2009 Ghencea Stadiummarker, Bucarestmarker, Romaniamarker
1 – 1
1 – 2
Friendly
07. 5 September 2009 Maksimir Stadiummarker, Zagrebmarker, Croatiamarker
1 – 0
1 – 0
2010 World Cup Qualifying


Playing style

Rakitić is commonly deployed for his very mature and strong playing style. While playing in the Bundesliga with Schalke, he is mainly used as a held back playmaker and is capable of creating attacks and also holding the ball well to keep possession. He is, to a much lesser extent, also known for contributing to defense which is only seen when his club would play a defensive game. He often is chosen to take set pieces for both Schalke and Croatia.

While playing at international level, Rakitić has also been referred to as a striker as used a few times in a more forward position by current coach Slaven Bilić. However, his midfield ability is also used to great effect combined with Croatia's touch and move football which sees many passing along the pitch and also gives him the ability to make many runs on the left flank to create attacks. He has shown a great knowledge of offense in many games, and his delivery and unexpected shot accuracy are also among his strengths.

Personal life

Ivan has a brother, Dejan who also played football shortly before suffering a major injury which put him out of action permanently. Rakitić has a tattoo supporting him with the word "Dejan" on his right arm. He is fluent in Swiss German and Croatian language.

Dejan Rakitić made comeback in 2008 signing for Swiss side Black Stars.

References

  1. Rakitić earns Schalke draw with Stuttgart
  2. "Swiss sad at losing Rakitić to Croatia", Rakitić homepage


External links




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