ZAGREB, May 15 (Xinhua) -- It was a night that Ivan Rakitic will never forget, a night when he became the second Croatian player to captain his team to UEFA Europa League trophy.
It was the first UEFA Europa League final that went scoreless in 120 minutes when Sevilla's goalkeeper Beto saved two penalties and helped his team to beat Benfica 4-2 in Turin, Italy.
Beto did some heroic saves during the regulation and extra time, as well, but it was Rakitic who took the limelight as he became the first captain to win the Man of the Match award of the UEFA Europa League.
"When everything was finished, when we've won, I was blown away with emotions. I was paralyzed from happiness. I just couldn' t move my legs. This is a feeling that I can't describe. This was a trophy that we all lived for, everyone in the club and our fans, as well," the 26-year old told Croatian sports daily Sportske Novosti
Wearing his beloved Croatian flag as a cloak, Rakitic received the trophy from UEFA president Michel Platini, the same thing that Darijo Srna did five years ago as the captain of Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk.
"I am so proud to be just the second Croat after Darijo Srna to lift this trophy as a captain and I dedicate this win to my wife and daughter," Rakitic said.
The biggest triumph of his career came on the same day when Croatian national coach Niko Kovac announced his provisional World Cup squad. Of course, Rakitic is one of the stars and key players of Croatian team.
"This is the best thing that can happen to a player. Winning this trophy will boost Ivan's self-confidence and for that he will be a better player. I can only wish Luka (Modric) will do the same with Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final," Niko Kovac said.
Football specialized web portal goal.com also picked Rakitic as UEFA Europa League Player of the Tournament.
Rakitic played in all but one match for Sevilla during their UEFA Europa League campaign that they started last summer. In those 14 matches Rakitic produced 31 key passes to his teammates and completed almost 80 percents of all passes.
Those stats can make Croatian coach Niko Kovac happy. But the amount of matches that Rakitic accumulated in his muscles can be a problem for Kovac's team. It remains to be seen how much toll did the long season take on Rakitic's body.
"I am not worried for Ivan. He is very mature as a man and as a player. After all, he has always been one of the fittest players in our team," Croatian coach Kovac said.
Many wealthy clubs have already expressed their interest in Rakitic, but Sevilla love to see Rakitic captain the team again in the next season.
Recently, there were some reports suggesting that Rakitic's future is sealed with Real Madrid where he would partner his Croatian teammate Luka Modric. But, for now, Rakitic doesn't want to spark transfer stories.
"First I want to celebrate this victory because we deserve it. Everybody knows how much Sevilla, the club and the city, means to me so I don't want to talk about Real Madrid now. I want to focus on Croatian national team and playing in the World Cup," Rakitic said.