Former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has revealed that one of the first decisions he made following his appointment at the Camp Nou was to turn down the chance to sign Toni Kroos before his move to Real Madrid in 2014.
Enrique was brought in to that summer during a period of transition for the club, who were eyeing a long-term replacement for Xavi Hernández in the heart of their midfield.
Barcelona's decision makers offered Enrique either Kroos at Bayern Munich of Sevilla's Ivan Rakitić, and the now Spain manager explained his experience playing against the Croatian midfielder was the deciding factor in his decision.
"[Kroos] fit in as well, I remember this was our doubt. I would have signed both. But there wasn’t enough money. I wish I had signed both," Enrique told Catalunya Ràdio (via BarcaBlaugranes).
"Kroos is more like a pivot, Ivan can be a pivot or an interior. Kroos has good touch, good shooting. He would be a good interior as well, eh? They’re players that are alike, that are similar, but with a few exceptions.
"I was very clear first of all because I knew Rakitić better, let’s not fool ourselves. I had seen him. What’s more, I have an anecdote that’s very good. When I was at Celta, he was at Sevilla. He was Sevilla’s captain, our best player was Rafinha.
People are really forcing the Kroos- Rakitic comparison. I love Rakitic with all my heart and he'll go down as a Croatian footballing legend.— Medo (@Mediostability) March 12, 2019
But there's levels to this. Kroos will go down in history as one of the midfield greats.
Rakitic won't be remembered as well.
"Rakitić marked Rafinha, in the box, outside... Sevilla’s star marked our best player with such discipline, with such a capacity... then offensively, we all know the characteristics he has.
"Great runs, passing, ball control, ability to maintain the ball, ability to play the final ball, strategy... he has it all as a player. And on top of that, his behaviour at the personal level when you ask about him. And that’s something we always ask before we sign someone: how is he as a person? Because this is key.”
Both Kroos and Rakitić - adversaries both in Germany and Spain - joined their respective clubs in 2014, with the latter signing on the dotted line at the Camp Nou for just £16.2m.
Kroos moved to the Santiago Bernabéu in a deal which has since been described as one of the best bargains buys ever. The Germany international left Bayern Munich for just £22.5m and he's gone on to make 225 appearances for Real Madrid during that time.