It shouldn't surprise too many people if Ivan Rakitic scores when Croatia come up against Brazil in the World Cup’s opening match, live on ITV. Chris Mendes explains why...
He’s a man for the big occasion, finding the net against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid this season, all away from home.
The two-footed midfielder is enjoying his most fruitful campaign in front of goal, repaying the faith of coach Unai Emery who installed him as captain after taking over last year.
He’s responded by scoring 15 goals in all competitions, operating from an advanced midfield berth, where he's managed to lift the Spanish side from ninth spot into genuine contenders to finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League.
Rakitic was also on the score-sheet when Sevilla demolished Porto in the Europa League this month, and stands on the brink of a Turin final against Benfica or Juventus after last week's 2-0 victory against Valencia.
There are plenty more positives to the 26 year-old’s game than goals alone, so it’s no surprise that Liverpool and Real Madrid are thought to be keen on recruiting him this summer.
Last season, Rakitic created more chances than any other player in La Liga against the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta and Ozil.
When the Croatian hasn’t got the ball at feet, looking to carve open defences or deliver one of his deadly set-pieces, he will time late bursts into the penalty area hoping one of his team-mates can spot his clever runs.
Rakitic is arguably an even better all-round player than Luka Modric, his compatriot who joined Real Madrid from Spurs for £33m in 2012. He creates more chances, boasts the greater physical presence and poses more of a goalscoring threat.
With Bayern Munich’s free-scoring Mario Mandzukic suspended for the curtain-raiser against Brazil, Croatia will look no further than Rakitic for inspiration.