Liverpool's hopes of securing Sevilla star Ivan Rakitic have suffered a major blow after Real Madrid emerged as favourites for the Croatian midfielder's signature.
Marca reported Real's interest via Cadena Cope Radio and outlined early contact between the club and Rakitic's agent:
Ivan Rakitic is on Real Madrid's radar, according to Cadena Cope radio. The Croatian midfielder has also received an offer from Atletico, but he has opted for 'Los Blancos', given their interest.
Ivan Rakitic's brother and agent has already spoken with Real's general manager, Jose Angel Sanchez, who would have told him of the club's interest in signing him.
Liverpool's chances of landing the player appear to be quickly subsiding, as reported by Paul Gorst of the Mirror. Sevilla president Jose Castro suggested Rakitic will remain at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium during an interview with Onda Cero, noted in Gorst's article:
"I see him at Seville next season, he's really comfortable here and the fans love him," said Castro.
Rakitic is enjoying a fantastic campaign in La Liga and is just the type of hard-working player Brendan Rodgers likes to employ. The Sevilla captain has scored 11 goals and provided 10 assists for Unai Emery's team, per WhoScored.com, helping the team to fifth place in a competitive chase for Champions League football.
Four of Rakitic's goals have come against the Spanish division's top three. He has proven himself continuously capable of aiding Sevilla's cause during matches with elite sides, most recently highlighted by his virtuoso performance and assist against Real Madrid.
Rakitic's sublime touch over the head of Pepe may have been enough for Carlo Ancelotti to sanction a move, as noted by Paddy Power:
VINE: An absolute exquisite touch from Rakitic bewildered poor Pepe last night: https://t.co/wsEdrPZdRp— Paddy Power (@paddypower) March 27, 2014
There's little wonder Rodgers is rumoured to be interested. Rakitic is more than capable of playing in a defensive midfield role, the centre, or even just behind Sevilla's forwards. He is a tough tackler, someone who covers a vast amount of ground to support this team across the pitch, and a proven goalscorer at the highest level.
This is the type of well-rounded style Rodgers has installed into Jordan Henderson throughout his tenure as Liverpool boss. The Northern Irishman expects his midfielders to fulfil a number of duties—from supporting the defence to bombing into the opposition's area—two main attributes of Rakitic's game.
Real's reported interest is likely to outline Ancelotti's side as favourites for his transfer. Not only will Rakitic be able to stay in Spain, a move to the capital will see him link up with international team-mate Luka Modric. Sami Khedira is linked with a move away, reported by talkSPORT, a departure that would certainly make room for Rakitic and allow Ancelotti to advance Real's attack-minded passing game.
Although Rakitic is the type of player who would naturally adapt to life in the Premier League, Liverpool may be forced to look elsewhere. Rodgers is sure to have plenty of targets lined up, as highlighted by his failure to land Mohamed Salah and Yevhen Konoplyanka during the winter, per David Wright of the Express.
Rakitic is a world-class addition to any side, but right now, his future appears to reside in Spain.