Bojan – The Enigma of Barcelona

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ll be well aware of the success that Barcelona have attained, primarily through their youth system. Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Busquets, Valdes, Puyol and the talismanic Lionel Messi have all emerged from La Masia youth academy, unquestionably the best in the world, and propelled Barcelona to the summit of global football, leaving their rivals trailing in their wake. What makes the success more incredible is the fact that it has been achieved playing on a domestic basis (i.e they’re Spanish/Spanish speaking). Great surely? Well, it does mean that many players fall by the wayside. Enter Bojan Krkic.

Of Football Manager fame, Bojan was probably the first child of the nineties that everyone knew about at age fifteen. He was seen as the next best thing coming out of Barca, before Lionel Messi even, and from 9 he bagged a staggering 900 goals for the Barcelona youth teams. He spent a single year in Barcelona B before receiving a professional contract, and the records soon tumbled. Youngest Barcelona goalscorer; first player born in the 1990s to score in the Champions League; most goals in a debut season in La Liga – just three of a great first season.

He moved up in the ranks at Barca as players such as Ronaldinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic departed, giving him an opportunity for regular football. However, as players depart, players also arrive. Notably David Villa, coupled with Guardiola’s 4-3-3 tactic to accommodate Messi out wide, meant that Bojan’s growth was stunted after a while. He became something of a back up striker whom Barcelona were reluctant to let go due to his possible potential. What can they do though? Too good to sell, not good enough to be the leading striker… an enigma in footballing terms that had been seen before.

The ‘seen before’ funnily enough has links with Barcelona in the form of their current centre back Gerard Pique. He was a youth player at Barcelona, but opted to moved to Manchester United before his 17th birthday. He, like Bojan, rose through the ranks quickly with good performances, and was seen as another youth starlet United had nabbed from abroad. A loan spell at Real Zaragoza gave him some first team time, as well as the odd appearance for the Red Devils in League Cup and Champions League matches, which all aided his great development.

The issue with Pique? United had the two best centre backs in the world at the time in Vidic and Ferdinand. How many centre backs play in a 4-4-2? 2. No room at the inn Mr Pique, sorry. Barcelona were having defensive difficulties, and saw potential in their ex-youth player. They signed Pique at a snip for just £5m, with a bumper buy out clause for such an unknown player (which has since been raised/removed otherwise it would’ve been activated). How Sir Alex must be regretting that decision three years on. Pique has lifted two Champions Leagues, three La Ligas, a Copa del Rey, a UEFA Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup, and of course, the World Cup with Spain.

It’s a tricky one though isn’t it? This is why managers have to go into great detail and thought when signing a player. Take an example. Man City purchase Vidic, Lucio and Puyol (arguably the best three cente backs in the world). Happy days surely? Well, no. In the ‘normal’ football team, you get two centre backs, meaning that one has to sit on the sideline. Rotating the defenders means that you can’t build solid partnerships (as the same pairing will only occur once every three games), plus when it comes to the big games such as UCL Finals, which two do you play? And what about the happiness of the third player? Even with the millions of City, you can’t buy your way to success, as it’s about consistency and selection, which money can only aid, and not guarantee.

So back to Bojan, the original pretender in this story. He has also suffered he sorry-you’re-not-good-enough curse, and what has happened to him now? He’s left. Roma is the destination of choice, which many are surprised about. However, Barcelona refused to let him stay in Spain, and Italy will do him good in developing further. What you must remember is that Bojan is 20. Now, we may have teenage sensations lighting the football world up, but the really great players are superb throughout their careers. Just because he’s left Barcelona doesn’t mean that Bojan is throwing his career down the pan. If anything, it shows that he wants first team football. He is one of the few youngsters who cares more about football and playing time than his pay package. Humbling to see, and Roma will relish the opportunity of taking on such an exciting young footballer.

The price though? £10m. A bargain for such a club as Roma. This youngster was linked with Man City when Sheik Madman imported his millions for a lot more. So have Barca made a mistake? They aren’t silly in Catalonia. After two seasons, Barcelona have the option to buy him back for £11.4m. Roma can block this clause at any time by giving Barcelona a further £25m. Should Bojan be a late bloomer (which I can’t see being the case), only then will Barca lose out. However, the deal they’ve done works out well for all parties.

Bojan can now do what he does best – play football. He was once dubbed the greatest young footballer in the world. Now he could be known as a Barca reject. However, this lad loves his football, and he can now thrive doing what he does best – scoring goals.

Luke Smith

Follow me on Twitter! @LukeSmithOnline

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