While every hot new attacking prospect that bursts onto the European footballing scene is instantly named the ‘next Lionel Messi’, one young man seemingly fit the comparison better than most: Bojan Krkic.
With his shaggy hair, his skilful wide play – and the fact he played for Barcelona – the wonderkid emerged as the supposed heir to Messi’s throne.
Although the Argentine himself had only recently announced his arrival onto the world stage, by the time Bojan made his Barca debut in September 2007, Messi was already a firm fixture in the Catalan side.
At just 17 years and 19 days, the former Stoke City man became the youngest player to represent the famous club in a La Liga match – taking the record previously held by the diminutive Argentine.
At international level, such was the clamour over this fledgling talent, both Spain and Serbia were desperate secure his services (bet he wishes he’d chosen Serbia now…)
For all this early promise and hype, the Spain international’s career took a deep and frightful nosedive to such an extent that he now plies his trade for MLS side Montreal Impact – no disrespect to ‘soccer’ intended.
But how did it go so wrong? How did such a prodigious talent go from the heavy heights of the Nou Camp to, well, Canada – and still at just 29 years of age.
Perhaps it was too much too soon for such a young talent, but few could have quelled the excitement that surrounded him.
Before he’d even had a sniff of first-team action, Bojan was already a known name around the famed La Masia academy, and had reportedly stuffed a staggering 850 goals in his youth career.
His speed, trickery and eye for a goal were apparent early on, with his first Barca coach, Frank Rijkjaard, (via the Guardian) explaining that: “Bojan is a treasure”.
The praise did not end there, with former Blaugrana coach Pep Guardiola also speaking highly of the younger’s precocious talent, as the current Manchester City manager said: “There are only a few players who have a magical touch, and Bojan is one of them.”
While he has famously not lived up to such appraisal, Bojan’s first season with the club was nothing short of miraculous.
Despite his tender age, the winger scored an impressive 12 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions, as well as laying on a further six assists.
To even make the bench in a side filled with the likes of Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o was no easy task, let alone make the number of appearances that the youngster managed to rack up.
But it was unfortunately a season that was never really built upon, with Bojan remaining on the fringes of Guardiola’s immensely talented squad which swept all before them.
Despite being handed the number 11 shirt and then the number nine shirt following Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure in 2010, the wide-man was certainly no starter, as the Catalan giants continued to strengthen with the likes of Pedro and David Villa.
After four years at Barca, the young man was on his way, enduring tough spells at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax, before he arrived at Premier League ‘giants’ Stoke.
6 – The only six players to score in at least four of Europe’s top five leagues since 2010 are:
Bojan Krki? ?????????????
Jonathan de Guzmán ?????????????
Michy Batshuayi ?????????????
Philippe Coutinho ?????????????
Stevan Jovetic ?????????????
Zlatan Ibrahimovic ?????????????
Nomads. #Opta2010s https://t.co/Poh6xc4rqU pic.twitter.com/JfjJXrrxV8
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 31, 2019
In just three seasons he had gone from lining up alongside Iniesta, Xavi and Messi to Ryan Shawcross, Stephen Ireland and Charlie Adam.
The former Barca man arrived among Mark Hughes’ strange fusion of Tony Pulis’ British stalwarts and a new batch of foreign flair, with Bojan one of five Champions League winners at the club by 2017.
While he spent five years at the club – albeit with the last two seasons out on loan – the goals certainly did not flow in English football , as he truly couldn’t cut it on a ‘cold wet tuesday night in Stoke’.
Equally, at international level, the winger has suffered the misfortune of only appearing once for his country, while he missed inclusion in the 2008 European Championship squad after citing anxiety issues – something which he has sadly struggled with throughout his career.
He had sought to switch allegiance to Serbia back in 2016, yet his request was denied after having appeared in a European Championship qualifier for Spain – he only played 25 minutes, mind.
Although his spell in European football is at an end – for now – perhaps the managerial wisdom of Bojan’s ex-teammate, Henry, in Montreal can inspire a career revival.