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Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic amazed by facilities at Burton's St George's Park

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: July 30, 2014

By Tom Sloan

SAINTS BE PRAISED ... Barcelona's squad enjoy training at St George's Park, near Burton.

SAINTS BE PRAISED ... Barcelona's squad enjoy training at St George's Park, near Burton.

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BARCELONA's Croatia star Ivan Rakitic would love his country to have a base like Burton's St George's Park.

The 26-year-old midfield playmaker has just joined the Catalan giants from Sevilla for a reported £16.1 million.

And, along with his new team-mates, the gifted Swiss-born Croat is enjoying pre-season training in the East Staffordshire countryside.

"I think St George's Park is unbelievable," he said in excellent English at a press conference at the FA's national football centre yesterday.

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"In Croatia we would love to have something like this.

"It's the perfect place for us at Barcelona to work – we're really happy to be here.

"We hope that these five days we can work so hard to be ready for the new season."

Rakitic says the facilities at St George's Park, including a state-of-the-art sports science centre, perfect pitches and a luxury hotel and spa complex, are the envy of the rest of Europe.

"One thing, for English football – they have something unbelievable here," said the former Basel and Schalke 04 man.

"As a Croat, I would love to have something like this for our national team, but sadly it's not possible."

Although Rakitic is a new boy at Barcelona himself, he will be looking after one fellow young countryman – Alen Halilovic.

The 18-year-old, tipped as a new Lionel Messi, was a major target for Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur this summer before joining Barca in a £1.75m deal from Dinamo Zagreb.

"He's a very young lad," said Rakitic. "But everyone in Croatia knows how good he is and can be.

"I'm trying to help him where I can because I know the language after living in Spain for a few years and he is new here.

"He's a very promising player."

As for Rakitic, he is just delighted to seal a dream move to one of the world's biggest clubs – and cannot wait to pull on the blue and red stripes for the first time.

"The feeling I have right now is very good," he said. "I'm working at 100 per cent in the training sessions to be as good as I can be and to get better.

"The most important thing at this stage is to be 100 per cent fit and I'm working very hard on that.

"It's the same as when I played for Sevilla, only the players are better.

"I'm really enjoying it as much as I can and working as hard as possible."

Some discussion has centred on Rakitic's position in the Barca team for the coming season, with some suggestion he will be used as a defensive midfielder, similar to where he played in the World Cup for Croatia.

"I'm happy to play wherever the manager wants me to play," said the playmaker.

"If that's as an organiser then I'm quite comfortable with that, and if it's further up the pitch then that's fine too.

"I'm looking forward to playing wherever (manager) Luis Enrique asks me to play."

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