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MIAMI, Florida — In what has amounted to a crescendo of media attention towards FC Barcelona and its flock of superstar footballers, who have taken the United States by storm in the eight days since the team touched down in New York, Thurday's appearance by Ivan Rakitic in the minutes before an early evening training session on the soccer fields of Barry College featured the biggest turnout yet by a batallion of local, national, and international reporters, all eager to hear just what the 29-year-old Croatian midfielder had to say.
Rakitic may not have the star power of Leo Messi, or even Gerard Piqué, but there was one big difference with this pre-workout press conference—it came just 48 hours ahead of the first Clásico of the season, an International Champions Cup clash between Barça and its eternal rivals, Real Madrid.
Given the weight of Saturday night's matchup, and adding the glitzy backdrop of Miami, Florida to the equation, the press showed up in drives, easily outnumbering the previous sessions like this one that were held in Whippany, New Jersey, during Barça's first stop on this summer's U.S. tour.
So with dozens of journalists packing in tightly around Rakitic and reducing the Barça midfielder to a speck in the eyes of those who were in the back, he mused about, the coming Clásico, the team's recent performances, and even his preference for music. Here is what the Barça number 4 had to say.
On how special Clásicos are:
Yes, that's true. A Clásico is a Clásico. We have this game in the preseason, and then we have to train for the two games in the Spanish super cup. And if we want to win it, we're going to have to continue training as best we can, and it also means we have to play a good game. I really hope we can win it.
On how the players in the dressing room are approaching the Neymar situation:
I think everybody knows that he's a big part of our family. Of course both I and the rest of my teammates would like to see him stay with us.
On weather Saturday's game will help the team prepare for the super cup:
They are different situations. In one you're playing a friendly while in the other you're playing for the first title of the season.
On where he sees himself heading into the season, given his excellent form in the first two preseason games and the rumors of a possible signing in the midfield to compete with him:
First, thanks for the compliment. Any other guys to come in are going to have it tough. But like I always said, good players will always be welcome here. If we can improve the team and it something that the coach agrees with, those players will be welcomed. We are a very strong group of guys, we really like playing together, and we need 23 guys who are on the same page. But I want people to know is that I feel good, my confidence level is high, I worked hard while I was on vacation, and in the preseason as well, so onward and upward.
On how the team has improved since the beginning of training camp:
For us, everything is the same. I think at this level and to be in FC Barcelona , you have to give one hundred percent, both in Friendly's and ion the training ground, so will be ready for this game.
On whether, given the backdrop of the United States as a city filled with A-list stars and singers, there is a main theme song for this Barça team, and what his favorite music is:
We always have music playing in the locker room, and we like listening to Spanish and Latin American music, like Maluma and Shakira. If I’m not mistaken I think a lot of them live around here and if they’re Barça fans, they’re welcome here, but if not, they’ll have stay outside.
On whether he would consider following in the footsteps of other stars and come to play in the MLS:
It’s a great pleasure to be here. I was here a month ago with my wife on vacation. It’s a very beautiful and attractive place, and to be able to enjoy the United States is a spectacular experience. And having had the chance to be here with my family, the idea is interesting, but I really hope to be playing at a high level for several more years, and after that, we’ll see.
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