‘It hasn’t been a surprise’ – Barcelona star Rakitic knew coronavirus chaos coming after Naples visit

The Croatian midfielder could see evidence of the virus’ impact on Italy and isn’t surprised by the restrictions in place worldwide

Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic noted the effects of coronavirus during the team’s visit to Napoli in the Champions League last month and says he knew the worst was yet to come.

Spain is in a complete shutdown with people confined to their houses because of the pandemic and the nation has suffered 1720 virus-related deaths including 394 in the past 24 hours.

Rakitic’s Barca visited Italian city Naples on February 25 to take on the Blues in the elite European competition’s  round of 16 just as Covid-19 was starting to affect the country.

The 32-year-old got the feeling the situation was going to become a lot more serious and has now urged the public to stay in their houses – with Spain’s state of emergency extended for another 15 days on Sunday.

“It hasn’t been a surprise. When we went to Naples (in the Champions League last month), people were talking about it a lot in Italy and I said to Xavi (the team doctor) that this would get worse,” Rakitic told Barca TV in an interview from his home.

“Now it’s the best thing we can do. I would like to go out on the street and walk about, but it’s not necessary. We have to be indoors. I don’t like it, but it’s necessary and important.”

More 5400 people have died in Italy because of the virus, with nearly 60,000 cases spread throughout the country.

The pandemic has shut down nearly all football worldwide including Spain’s La Liga, which was suspended for two weeks on March 12 – a period that is highly likely to be extended.

Despite not knowing when he would see his Barca team-mates again, Rakitic was optimistically looking forward to returning to training, although he admitted it would be difficult for players.

“It will be strange seeing each other again at the training ground and playing again. Let’s hope we are in the best condition,” Rakitic said.

“Obviously, we will lose some adrenaline. It won’t be like in the summer, when you have the whole season ahead. Almost impossible to return at 100 per cent after a month, but there will be no lack of desire.”