HomeFeatured ArticlesBojan Krkic: How Will Stoke Utilise Barca's Lost Boy?

Bojan Krkic: How Will Stoke Utilise Barca’s Lost Boy?

There are many ways to make a name for yourself. I won’t go into too much detail here but I’m from North Manchester, so let’s just say I’ve seen a few things in my time. For a Mancunian, getting your name scrawled on the wall of a pub toilet in Moston is probably about as good as it gets. For a young graduate of the Barcelona academy however, making a name for yourself harbours completely different connotations.


On March 10th 2007, Lionel Messi announced himself to the world during football’s greatest contest. He scored a hat-trick for ten-man Barcelona, including a last gasp equaliser against old rivals Real Madrid at the Camp Nou. The youngster had been threatening greatness for several seasons, but in a team packed full of stars, Messi had just become the star that shone brightest.

Fast forward six months and there was a new, even younger kid on the block. With Messi’s career soon to hit stratospheric heights, Bojan Krkic was about to begin chipping away at his achievements.

In making his debut on 16th September 2007 against Osasuna, Bojan broke Messi’s record as the youngest ever player to represent Barcelona in a league fixture when he came on to replace another of Frank Rijkaard’s bright young things, Giovani Dos Santos.

A month later, this time against Lyon, Bojan became the youngest player to represent Barcelona in a Champions League fixture.

In October of the same year, he entered the record books as the youngest scorer for Barcelona in La Liga, less than half an hour into his first league start for the club away to Villarreal.

Finally, against Shalke in 2008, Bojan became the first player born in the nineties to score a Champions League fixture. If that stat doesn’t make you feel old, then I don’t know what will.

Comparisons with Messi at this point were natural. Both were diminutive figures, plying their trade with youthful exuberance. Both possessed great skill and balance, with a natural instinct to humiliate defenders. It’s also worth remembering that at the start of his career, Bojan was thought to be the more natural goalscorer of the two, scoring 16 goals in just 20 appearances for the Spanish U17 team. Nobody would have predicted the goal scoring behemoth that Messi evolved into over the coming years of course, but where the Argentine’s career soared, Bojan’s stuttered. Was the hype ever justified, or did Krkic time his arrival perfectly in order to take a ride on Messi’s made to measure coattails?

In 2011, after 26 goals in 104 appearances for Barcelona, Bojan swapped La Liga for Serie A. The deal that took him to Roma was complicated, but it indicated that his stock was still high. An initial payment of twelve million Euros was agreed between the clubs, with Barcelona keeping a buy-back clause in his contract. This clause meant that it was compulsory for the Catalan side to take Bojan back for a fee of thirteen million Euros, if Roma didn’t stump up an additional twenty-eight million to secure his services permanently at the start of the 2013/14 season.

The fact that Bojan was farmed out on loan after just one season at Roma, to Serie A rivals AC Milan, indicated that Roma wouldn’t be coughing up such a large amount of money to retain him.

Bojan scored just three goals for AC Milan during the 2012/13 campaign, and was sent back to Barcelona accordingly. Dutch side Ajax soon came knocking with the offer of a one year loan deal, which could be extended to two years of both clubs, and the player agreed. Bojan fared marginally better for the Dutch side, scoring four goals this time, but ot wasn’t enough to persuade Ajax to prolong his stay with the club.

Like a puppy that nobody wanted, Bojan returned to Barcelona with his tail very much between his legs.

On 22nd July 2014, in one of the most surprising twists of the transfer window, Bojan traded Spain for Stoke City, joining up with fellow Barcelona reject Mark Hughes. Still only 23, this could be unbelievable value for money if Stoke can utilise his undeniable ability.

How will they do this? Well, during Bojan’s early years at Barcelona, he was most prominent on the left of a front three. Hughes is more than happy playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, as shown last season. Bojan’s biggest obstacle in this instance would come in the shape of Marko Arnautovic, who scored 4 goals and created 7 last year. Arnautovic also completed nearly 700 passes and has become a firm favourite at The Britannia.

Of course, Krkic could also be used as a striker, and has already scored twice in pre-season from this position. The man he replaced in the recent friendly against Blackburn, Peter Crouch, was the leading scorer for the Potters last year but 8 goals is not a phenomenal return. Surprisingly, for a team with Stoke’s reputation as long ball merchants, Crouch only scored two of these goals with his head. Hughes could utilise Crouch’s height in a different way, with Bojan feeding off the former England international in a traditional ‘big man, little man’ partnership. It remains to be seen if this is a tactic that Hughes wants to prioritise.

Playing Bojan and Crouch together would also mean a slight change of position for another of Stoke’s key players last year, Charlie Adam. The Scot was used in a more advanced role at times, effectively too, scoring 7 goals and creating 4, but he is more than capable when dropping back to central midfield to allow Bojan to slot in further forward.

It remains to be seen if Hughes will try and wedge Bojan into an unfamiliar position, or whether he’ll build his attacking unit around him, but the manager has options. Walters, Odemwingie, Crouch, Mame Diouf, Ireland and Arnautovic will all provide stiff competition for Bojan, and that’s without the return of Liverpool’s Oussama Assaidi. If Barcelona’s lost boy plays to his full potential however, he could just turn out to be the signing of the summer.

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