Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has again hinted he could leave the club unless his playing time increases, saying he doesn't "understand the situation" following his fall in status this season, but he stressed his preference is to remain at the club.
The playmaker made only his second league start of the season in Sunday's 1-0 league win at Atletico Madrid, his first 90-minute display in 13 total appearances this term.
He spoke to reporters after the game, per Marca (h/t Goal's Dejan Kalinic): "I do not understand the situation because I want to play. If I can play, there is no better place than Barca. I want to enjoy every day, and if it can be here, much better."
Lionel Messi scored at the Wanda Metropolitano for the first time in his career, and it was his goal that condemned Atleti to a second straight defeat in all competitions:
Rakitic, 31, has been a near-constant in Barca's midfield since he joined from Sevilla in June 2014. Luis Enrique was Blaugrana boss when he moved to the Camp Nou, but Ernesto Valverde has also used the player a lot since he took over in 2017.
Squawka writer Muhammad Butt criticised Rakitic's performance against Atletico and called for Valverde to promote Barcelona product Riqui Puig:
Rakitic has complained about playing time already this season and opened up on previous comments that he felt Barcelona had taken his ball away:
"I said that the ball had been taken from me to imply how much I like football.
"But if I can play, there is no better place than Barca. What I want to do is enjoy, doing my best because I still have a lot to give.
"I have the confidence of my team-mates and if the coach puts me in, I understand that it will also be like that."
Valverde also started the 2018 FIFA World Cup runner-up in Wednesday's 3-1 UEFA Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund, a decision lamented by football blogger Roy Nemer:
Frenkie de Jong's arrival from Ajax this past summer has been a large reason why Rakitic has fallen down the pecking order, with the former quickly becoming almost omnipresent in the club's midfield.
As for where Rakitic could go if he were to leave, Juventus director Fabio Paratici told ESPN in November his club are not pursuing the midfielder, saying: "Rakitic is a great player, but we are not interested."
The Croat's contract at the Camp Nou isn't due to expire until June 2021, at which point he'll be 33 years old.
Nevertheless, Rakitic appears adamant about fighting for his place in Catalonia judging by his recent social media activity:
Barca's win at Atletico kept them top of the table. The team have lost three times this season, and Rakitic was in the starting XI for only one of those—he played the first 60 minutes of their 2-0 loss at Granada in September.
Valverde's side host Mallorca in La Liga on Saturday, with Rakitic hoping to build on his best run in the XI so far this campaign.