Ivan Rakitic on how he met his wife:
“I have a story for Hollywood. It’s a romantic comedy. But it’s actually real. It starts with a Croatian guy walking into a bar.
It was 2011. I was 21 years old. I arrived in Spain really late — maybe 10 o’clock at night. I had been playing for Schalke in Germany for the past four years & Seville were all set to sign me the next morning. All I had to do was take my medical test & sign the papers.
My older brother Dejan was traveling with me & when we got to the hotel, we had a late dinner with some people from the club. For whatever reason, I was a little bit nervous after dinner & I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. So I said to my brother, “Let’s have a drink & then we’ll go to bed.”
Those words changed my life.
Because the woman who happened to be working at the hotel bar was … Wow. This is the part of the movie where everything goes into slow motion, you know? She was so beautiful.
I said to myself, OK, Seville. Wow. I like this place.
But I couldn’t say anything to her other than “Hola,” because I didn’t know any Spanish. I spoke German, English, Italian, French & Serbo-Croatian, but no Spanish. It was terrible.
So my brother & I were just sitting there, having a chat, when someone from another big European club called my brother on the phone. They said that they had heard that we had arrived in Seville & they wanted to send a plane to come pick us up so I could go & sign with them instead.
We didn’t have a formal agreement with Seville yet. It was a big step for me to move to Spain & maybe a big risk. New country, new language. I didn’t know anyone there. The team who wanted to send the plane for me — let’s just say it might have been an easier adjustment.
So my brother said, “What do you want to do?”
I told him, “Well … I said ‘Yes’ to the president of Seville already & my words are worth more than a signature.”
He said, “Alright, I’ll tell them.”
Then I pointed across the bar and I said, “You see our waitress? I am going to play here for Seville & I am going to marry this woman.”
My brother was laughing. He said, “OK, whatever you say.” He thought I was joking.
The waitress came back & asked if we were finished and I said to my brother, “You know, I’m still a bit nervous. I don’t think I can sleep. Let’s have another drink.”
The next day, I signed my contract with Seville & I lived in that hotel for three months while I searched for a house. So every single morning, I went to the hotel bar for a coffee & an orange Fanta so that I could see the beautiful waitress.
All I knew was that her name was Raquel. She didn’t speak any English & I didn’t speak any Spanish. So every single day …
“Buenos días, Raquel. Un café y un Fanta naranja.”
I don’t know how to explain it. Sometimes, you meet someone & you just have a different feeling. Whenever I saw her, it was like a bomb went off inside me. Week after week, I slowly started to learn some Spanish words & if I was struggling, I would use my hands a lot to try to explain what I was trying to say to her.
She thought that was funny. She was like, “Me … Jane. You … Tarzan.”
I was drinking so much coffee it was ridiculous. I probably asked her out 20 or 30 times. She never said no, but she always made an excuse that she had to work and then go to bed. After three months, I moved into my house & I remember feeling really sad, because I thought maybe it was over. But I didn’t give up. I would still drive into town & go for a coffee at the hotel all the time.
If she wasn’t working, I’d walk straight back out the door & go to another place. If she was there, it made my day. By then, my Spanish was getting better, so we could talk a little more. I forced myself to watch Spanish TV & listen to Spanish radio all the time. I think I’m lucky, because for whatever reason, people from the Balkans seem to have a talent for learning languages.
One day, Raquel finally explained why she wouldn’t go out with me. She said, “You’re a footballer. You could be moving to another country next year. Sorry, but no.”
You know, I’m not the biggest guy in the world, so I thought: “Maybe she sees me & she doesn’t think I’m going to be very good and Seville will sell me in the summer”.
Part of my motivation when I went to training was to establish myself in the squad so that I would be around for awhile & this girl would finally have dinner with me. It literally took me seven months. I arrived on January 27. On August 20, I got a text: She’s in the bar with her sister having a drink, not working.
See, at this point, pretty much everybody in the town knew my story, so someone was in the bar & they tipped me off with a text. I refuse to name my source. I called a friend & we drove right to the hotel, and I took a seat right next to Raquel and I said, “OK, you’re not working. You finally have time to come to dinner with me.”
She was surprised. She said she didn’t know, maybe …
I said, “No. I’m not leaving. I know you’re with your sister and everything, but we have to start today. Let’s go. We’ll all go.”
So we all went out together. The next day, we met for lunch & we have been together ever since. Eight years together, with two beautiful daughters now. And it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. It was harder than winning the Champions League & it took nearly as long.”