The Croatian was left out of Luis Enrique’s squad on Sunday but the coach insisted the decision was not related to rumours he is bound for the Etihad Stadium

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique has rubbished reports linking midfielder Ivan Rakitic with a stunning move to Manchester City.

The Croatia international was said to be on the verge of joining Pep Guardiola at City in a report published by Jutarnji List in his home country on Sunday.

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Further fuel was then added to the fire when Rakitic was left out of Luis Enrique’s squad for Barcelona’s first league game of 2017 against Villarreal.

The report claimed Rakitic is keen to work under former Barca boss Guardiola but his current coach dismissed the rumours as baseless.

“Rakitic’s absence has nothing to do with that story,” Luis Enrique said after the 1-1 draw with Villarreal. “Media reports, be they from Spain or Croatia, are not even a quarter trustworthy.”

The coach added to Movistar+: “It is my job to pick the squad and the first XI, that’s what I have to do.”

Barca vice-president Jordi Mestre backed up Luis Enrique’s comments, insisting that the Blaugrana hope to extend Rakitic’s contract.

“We are negotiating Rakitic’s renewal,” he claimed. “We love him not only as a player but also as a person. He has a contract and we want him to stay.”

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The midfielder has been a staple in the Barcelona line-up since moving to Camp Nou from Sevilla in 2014, scoring the first goal in the 2015 Champions League final.

Rakitic, however, has seen his role diminish this season as a result of the arrival of Denis Suarez and Andre Gomes to play alongside Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta in the Barca engine room.