Futures of Rakitic and Vidal up in air at Barcelona

(AP Photo/Joan Monfort, file)

By JOSEPH WILSON

Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Despite their many trophies with the club, the futures of Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal are in doubt as Barcelona approaches the transfer window.

Both midfielders are proven winners with multiple titles. Rakitic has won a Champions League and four Spanish leagues for Barcelona, while also helping Croatia reach last year's World Cup final. Vidal has collected a long list of silverware in Spain, Germany, Italy and for his national team of Chile.

But with Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde giving priority to youngster Frenkie de Jong and Brazilian passer Arthur Melo, both veterans want more playing time.

The 31-year-old Rakitic went from an unquestioned starter and key component for Valverde to a seldom used bench player this season following the arrival of De Jong, who the club has placed big hopes in for the future.

Rakitic has said he wants to stay, and the situation for him has improved in the past two weeks.

Shortly after saying in an interview that he was "sad because they have taken the ball away from me," Rakitic made his second start of the season last week in Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund to win its Champions League group.

Valverde then used Rakitic to start in place of the suspended Sergio Busquets in a 1-0 win at Spanish league rival Atletico Madrid.

Rakitic provided balance to Barcelona's midfield and showed his experience supporting Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Now, he is waiting to see if he will have another chance on Saturday against Mallorca at Camp Nou.

"Another day, another opportunity! Always giving it my all," Rakitic posted on social media Wednesday, when Barcelona practiced.

With Barcelona obliged to sell players to balance its budget, Spanish media has speculated for months that Rakitic's reduced role meant he is going to be put up for a transfer. Barcelona club president Josep Bartomeu said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that the club "does not want to sell" Rakitic.

Bartomeu did, however, acknowledge that his club is trying to revamp a midfield and focus on its young, talented passers.

"Ivan Rakitic has been an important player," Bartomeu said. "(But) new generations arrive. I think that we have to forge this link between the generation that has won so much and the one that is coming so they can start another winning era. That's why players like Rakitic are fundamental.

"It's true that now he has fewer minutes. It's the manager's decision and of course we respect it. But we still count on all our players."

Vidal, meanwhile, has been in and out of the initial 11 since arriving at Barcelona from Bayern Munch last year.

Valverde sometimes wants the Chilean's tackling and aggressiveness to come off the bench and energize the team in the second half. This season, Vidal has proven to be valuable as a substitute by scoring four goals in limited action.

But the lack of play has led to the 32-year-old Vidal making it clear that he wants to be far more than a super-sub.

"I didn't play for several games . and that has made me very sad," Vidal said. "If in December, or when the season is over, I don't feel important here, I will have to find a solution and widen my horizons."

Media reports say that potential suitors could include Vidal's old Juventus coach, Antonio Conte, who now has Inter Milan at the top of the Serie A standings.

The mid-season transfer market for Spain opens on Jan. 2.

Before that, Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in a "clasico" on Dec. 18. Valverde may have to consider the future of two of his players before picking his line-up for that showdown.

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Updated December 5, 2019

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