Ivan Rakitic has admitted he was never close friends with Lionel Messi or Luis Suarez during his time at Camp Nou.
There had been reports that Rakitic had not gotten on well with Barca’s star pair but, while he acknowledges they weren’t close, he says he had nothing but respect for them.
“I’ve said my side,” Rakitic told El Desmarque. “My relationship with them was never one of close friends. I believe that’s hard in a group of 23 or 24 players.
“My closest friends were Andres Iniesta, [Marc-Andre] ter Stegen, [Kevin-Prince] Boateng and Junior Firpo last season.
“But I respect them both. They were my team-mates for six years and are very important players. I’ve always got on incredibly well and have the utmost respect for them.
“During the coronavirus lockdown, we’ve all been very close together, almost neighbours. I’m very thankful for how they’ve treated me over the years.”
Returning to the club where he spent four productive seasons between 2011 and 2014, Rakitic will be fully focused on his club commitments at Sevilla, having also announced his retirement from international football.
“Saying goodbye to the national team is the most difficult decision of my career, but I felt that it was the moment when I had to break through and make that decision,” he said in a statement.
“I enjoyed every game that I played with my country and the unforgettable moments of the World Cup will remain among my favourite memories of my life.”
Rakitic played 106 times for Croatia, scoring 15 goals and reaching the 2018 World Cup final.
With La Liga having already gotten underway, they will be playing catchup when they play their first domestic fixture at Cadiz on September 28.