Barcelona and Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic says he turned down moves to both Chelsea and Juventus when aged 16 years old in order to stay close to his family. The 27-year-old spent his childhood in Switzerland, starting his football career at FC Möhlin-Riburg and FC Basel but reveals he had the chance to abandon his humble upbringing in 2004.
Rakitic is regarded as one of the best creative midfielders in world football and in his first season at the Nou Camp he played a significant role in the club claiming the treble; scoring in the Champions League final against Juve. The player is also a regular fixture for his country for whom he has played 75 times.
But the path taken by Rakitic could have been entirely different had he decided to leave his family during the early years of his football education. The former Switzerland Under-21 international says he was approached by Chelsea to move to the Premier League but decided to stay put with his family.
"It was important for me to do it step by step," he told The Daily Telegraph, ahead of the 4-0 El Clasico win over Real Madrid. "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. Maybe when I decided to stay in Basle it might have been a bad decision but it was my decision. Or maybe I will go to Chelsea and my father would have said 'no, stay at home'.
"It was important for me to say 'the money is there but the money will come with time, also'. There was another player like me and he went and today he is playing in the fourth division in Switzerland."