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Rakitic and Barca stars inspired by legend 'Leo'


EURO AIM: Ivan Rakitic. Photo: PA

EURO AIM: Ivan Rakitic. Photo: PA

EURO AIM: Ivan Rakitic. Photo: PA

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic admits the players are inspired to follow wherever Lionel Messi leads as he is “the best player in history”.

Coach Ernesto Valverde sounded a note of caution by conceding Champions League semi-final opponents Liverpool are a “fearsome rival” but Rakitic suggested having Messi on their side trumped that considerably.

“Whenever our captain says something the rest of us are there to follow in his footsteps,” said the Croatia midfielder.

“Leo has been a league champion in 10 of the last 15 years and seeing how he lifts the title with extreme happiness, that engages everyone.

“If he is happy to win every title and win every game what can you say about the rest of us? We are even more eager if possible.

“Being able to follow the best player in history gives us a lot of confidence.

“How many Champions Leagues does Leo have? He already has won four and I don’t think he’s going to get too nervous about (Liverpool).

Valverde struck a more conservative tone, saying: “You can’t be absent in the game for five minutes because if you do that against Liverpool they will lock you into your half of the pitch.

“They are a powerful team with extraordinary forwards and level of pressure, rhythm and pace which is very high.”