Ivan Rakitic: I want to give back to the people here

Ivan Rakitic says he cannot wait to get on the pitch for Al Shabab after joining the Roshn Saudi League side earlier this week.

The former Barcelona midfielder moves to the Kingdom having spent 13 hugely successful years in Spain’s La Liga.

Rakitic, a FIFA World Cup finalist with Croatia in 2018, moves to Al Shabab from Sevilla – highlighting his second stint with the Andalusian club by guiding them to last season’s UEFA Europa League title.

Rakitic, 35, was an integral component at Barcelona from 2014-2020, helping the Nou Camp side to the treble – the UEFA Champions League, La Liga and the Copa del Rey – in the 2014-15 campaign. During his time there, he won 13 major trophies. He retired from international football in 2020, having represented Croatia 106 times.

At Al Shabab, Rakitic will replace in the squad another former Sevilla midfielder, Ever Banega.

In his first interview since signing for the Riyadh side, Rakitic told the Roshn Saudi League: "My motivation is at 100%. First with my club Al Shabab and also with the league to show them and push them that here we play amazing football and our vision is for the future is really important and that’s why I’m here."

On his reasons for choosing Al Shabab, he said: “First contact was with my agent Arturo Canales. He started to explain to me about Al Shabab, about the league here in Saudi and about everythin. I recall we felt many things went in the same way, the same mentality. If you can feel this, you start to move forward. I'm thankful for the club and the chairman for the confidence to have me here. I'm really happy and can't wait to start being on the pitch."

Rakitic is the latest big name to land in the RSL. He will join the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Sadio Mane, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante in plying his trade in the Kingdom’s rapidly developing top-flight.

"I saw games. Many old teammates and players I have played against are here and of course we speak with each other," said Rakitic.

"You can feel it’s going up day-by-day. Feels like a big league, an important league. We are here to try to help them take these next steps. I think it will be really hard to play here, but I'm motivated."


Currently, Al Shabab sit 11th in the RSL ahead of the 2023-24 season restart on February 15. They get their campaign back under way on February 16, away to fifth-placed Damac.

Rakitic will, of course, hope to feature, and will be sporting the No 30 for the team – something of special significance to him as he settles into his new surroundings in Saudi Arabia.

"My favourite number is number 10, but it was not possible to have this number. I saw the number 30, we had spoken before to have a lot of information not only about football, which is of course why I’m here. But it’s also as important what happens around football and around my club. I saw the information about HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 and the idea, and I think that a vision starts with big and important pillars and this mentality is similar to my way and I really want to be part of it. It was clear for me to take the number 30 and give it back to the people here, so that’s why I have 30."