Sevilla, currently sitting fifth in the league table, have made a solid if unspectacular start to the season.
The Andalusians ended 2019/20 in style, finishing fourth and winning their sixth Europa League title by beating Inter Milan in the final.
Their form since has been rather inconsistent, with Julen Lopetegui‘s side failing to control matches in the manner in which they did last season and relying heavily on late goals.
That’s not so say they haven’t achieved their early objectives, however. Sevilla are still very much in the race for the top four and have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League, where they’ll face Borussia Dortmund.
Rakitic rejoined the club from Barcelona this summer after spending six years away. The Croatian forged his reputation in Seville and his wife, Raquel, is from the city.
“The club has of course made important steps forward since I’ve been away,” he said.
“It’s incredible that we have now won the Europa League six times in the last 14 years, this is a really fantastic achievement. Hopefully we can now take even bigger steps forward.”
Many tipped Sevilla as dark horses for a title challenge this season, a year so irregular given the disruptions caused by Coronavirus and the shortened schedule it’s resulted in.
“I think what we are seeing that each game this season is really difficult to play in,” he said.
“This season will be a very long one and a lot of things will happen along the way for sure.
“Hopefully a different side can challenge for the title. All 20 sides in the league fight until the last game, and we know you have to be ready in case there is a possibility.
“You have to be 100% on your game and take your chance, which maybe there will be this season.”
A key story so far this season has been the passing of Diego Maradona at the age of 60.
The Argentine legend spent a season at Sevilla in the early 1990s as well as playing for Barcelona, like Rakitic.
“To have made some similar steps as Maradona, such as playing for both Sevilla and Barcelona, is just incredible,” Rakitic said.
“To be the first non-Spanish player to captain Sevilla after Maradona is truly unbelievable.
“I’m really proud to be the captain of the club and I feel I have the confidence of the club, the people of Seville and all the fans. It’s amazing to be part of the club’s history.
“Maradona was different, he was able to show that he’s not just playing but enjoying football, which was an incredible inspiration to all of us. People like Maradona will live on forever.”
Sevilla face Real Valladolid this coming Saturday at the Sanchez-Pizjuan. They’ll be hoping for a victory that will push them further up the league table.
Ivan Rakitic was speaking at an event for LiveScore, Official Global Scoring Partner of LaLiga Santander. LiveScore’s iOS and Android app is available to download now: www.livescore.com/mobile
Featured image courtesy of Transfermarkt.