"Here in the city, people say the Europa League is Sevilla's competition," midfielder Ivan Rakitić tells UEFA.com as he prepares for his team's quarter-final against Manchester United.
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Born in Switzerland, midfielder Ivan Rakitić played for Basel and then Schalke before moving to Sevilla for the first time in 2011.The summer after he won the UEFA Europa League in 2013/14, the Croatian international left for Barcelona, where he claimed four Liga titles and the 2014/15 UEFA Champions League, but he jumped at the chance to return to the city he calls home in 2020.
Now 35, Rakitić is hoping to help Sevilla win the UEFA Cup/Europa League for a seventh time, though they face quite a test in the quarter-finals, with Manchester United standing in their path.
On this season's European campaign
[We are doing] quite well in European competition unlike the national league, sadly. But we know Sevilla's overall history in Europe. We know that the Champions League is number one, followed by the Europa League, but I believe the bar has been raised and this can be seen from the teams that remain [in the competition].
The match against Manchester United will be very tough – we know they are the favourites. We're familiar with their team and the first match is an away game. We must think about our game, and we need to be well prepared. If we achieve a good result in our away game in Manchester, then we can prepare them for hell here, at home. Our wish is to advance; it will be difficult, but we'll do our best and fight till the end.
On the city of Seville
It has been some 12 years [since I came here]. The city thrives on football, company, and family. There's a saying here that goes: "Whoever comes to Seville once, stays in Seville." Whoever comes here – even if they cannot stay – they will return again and again.
[Croatia defender] Duje Ćaleta-Car was recently staying at my place with his wife and friends. After he left, I was delighted to receive a text message yesterday saying that the city was fantastic, everything was beautiful, the people were fantastic, as well as the climate and everything else. So, anyone who comes here should stay for five or six days [at least], just in case.
The city is very old, and its history is rich among other things. Moreover, I am the only [Croatian] person who was allowed to marry in Seville Cathedral.
On returning following a spell at Barcelona
There were numerous options, but when the door opened up to come back home, it was perfectly clear to me, especially after talking to my wife. It was not about the contract, the money, the idea, or anything else, but about the heart. We just wanted to return to our home.
The club had also grown so much over those five or six years so it was also nice to try to help it develop further, if possible, considering how it grows every year. My home is in Seville; my wife is from this city, my children were born here, they go to school here and their friends are here. My close friends are here, so Seville for me means home.
On the prospect of a seventh UEFA Cup/Europa League success for Sevilla
That would be unbelievable. Here in the city, people say the Europa League is Sevilla's competition. It's something which belongs to us because we have won it six times in the last 15 or so years. Respect to everyone who's also won it, but it is somehow our competition.
People here love these games, and you can feel it among the people in the city. We eagerly await those matches and it would be unbelievable to lift that trophy with Sevilla once again. We hope it will happen with God's will, but we're taking it step by step. A tough match is ahead of us, and we'll fight till the end.