Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic isn't sure if even his father has praised him as much as Jose Mourinho recently did.
Per Sport, Mourinho showered the Croatian with praise after he scored the decisive goal in Barca's 1-0 win over Real Madrid on March 2, describing him as "one of the most underrated players in the world."
Rakitic responded: "What can you say? I don't have enough words to thank Mourinho. He is one of the best experts in the world. I don't know if my dad has ever praised me in a better way. This type of praise is very nice and I enjoy hearing it."
Mourinho made the comments as a pundit on beIN Sports:
beIN SPORTS @beINSPORTS
"He's one of the most underrated players in the world. "He needs to improve his Instagram and social media because in this moment this is very important and he's not very good on that but he's very good on the pitch!" Guess Who❓ (p.s. Mourinho couldn't resist could he?! 😂) https://t.co/3w9toQYrLM
"Before I leave let me tell something, because I want to say this for a long, long time. For me, Rakitic is one of the most underrated players in the world.
"He's a fantastic player at every level. He does defensive work on the right side to compensate [for Lionel] Messi, he runs miles, in ball possession he's fantastic, he's simple, he's effective."
Rakitic joined Barcelona from Sevilla in 2014. Having played in a more advanced role at his former club, he bagged 32 goals and 41 assists in 149 appearances.
The midfielder has different demands placed on him at the Camp Nou, though, so he has fewer combined goals and assists at Barcelona despite making 107 more appearances.
With the likes of Lionel Messi and until last summer Andres Iniesta taking care of the playmaking, Barcelona have made more use of Rakitic's tireless work rate, flexibility and defensive instincts to solidify their spine.
His ability to play that role means a lot of his work tends to go unsung, but football writer Colin Millar and journalist Musa Okwonga believe he deserves considerable praise:
Sid Lowe and Phil Kitromilides of The Spanish Football Podcast think he could walk into any side in world football:
Rakitic, who turned 31 on March 10, has two years remaining on his contract at the Camp Nou.
While his time at the top level is hardly over, he's approaching the twilight of his career.
Barcelona fans should appreciate what they've got in him during his remaining time at the club, because they'll miss him when he's gone.