Barcelona's star central midfielder Ivan Rakitić has claimed that referee Jair Marrufo insulted him personally on three occasions during his side's El Clasico pre-season match in Miami. The fiery encounter looked to boil over on a number of occasions, as the stars played out an exciting 3-2 match as part of their warm-up for the 2017/18 La Liga campaign.
Speaking to the press following the match, via Marca, Rakitić aired his frustrations on the way the game was officiated, contending that he was personally singled out for abuse by the match referee. The Croatian ace claimed:
"People who know me are aware that it is difficult to wind me up but the referee did. He insulted me quite strongly three times. I usually have a lot of respect for them but when they don't show it to me, then I don't like it."
Rakitić, who scored a well-taken goal to give his side a 2-0 lead in the match, also gave his opinion on the tour as a whole, concluding that the experience was by and large a success:
"There is still a little to go but I think it has been a positive tour. The games have had a good rhythm and we have worked hard in training. When you win then you always enjoy it more."
The two-time La Liga champion also faced the common question as to which team, Barça or Real, were the better side, and produced a suitably diplomatic answer to the heavily loaded question. Rakitić stated:
"We will see if we are better than Madrid. This was a friendly game today but the victory always gives confidence. The Super Cup will be different as we will be playing for a trophy which is what is important."
Barcelona will be eager to reclaim the La Liga crown, after missing out to Real's triumphant double-winning side in the 2016/17 campaign. New boss Ernesto Valverde will be keen to hit the ground running this season, and has already been busy in the transfer market. Nélson Semedo has been their most high-profile signing this summer, joining from Benfica for £30.5m.