Ex-FC Barcelona wonderkid Bojan on Lionel Messi comparison pressures and why he left LaLiga giants
Posted: 6 December 2018 Time: 17:00
Once considered the greatest prospect from La Masia and 'the new Lionel Messi', Bojan Krkic now finds himself failing to make the bench in the English second tier, but the former wonderkid has no regrets about leaving FC Barcelona.
After scoring a staggering 850 goals as he rose through Barca's esteemed youth academy, Bojan was predicted as the next icon of the LaLiga giants.
Instead, he left at the age of 20 after losing his place in the starting XI under then new manager Pep Guardiola, despite making 163 first-team appearances.
In his spell with the Blaugrana he won La Liga three times, the Champions League twice, a Copa del Rey, a Uefa Super Cup, two Spanish Super Cups and the Club World Cup.
Since then he has since played for AS Roma, AC Milan, Ajax Amsterdam and Stoke City - where he has now returned after two separate loan spells with Mainz in the Bundesliga and Alaves back in Spain.
"Here in England is the place I feel more respected outside the pitch," the 28-year-old told BBC Sport. "I feel really proud of my career - more here in England than in Spain.
"I played in the semi-final of the Champions League, I played for big teams, and now I'm in the Championship. This emotionally is difficult but I'm enjoying it.
"In Spain and Italy, when you win you are the best and when you lose, you are very bad. In Italy, one game you win and score, you cannot go in the street because the people are so enthusiastic, and when you lose they go crazy. After the game they wait for you.
"Many players don't care about that pressure. There are players who are more sensitive. Here in England, you don't feel this and can enjoy playing. It's different to play here than those places."
On being labelled the next Messi:
"You need to control the things you can do," said Bojan. "My first year I scored 10 goals in La Liga. Then people started saying 'yeah, the new Messi'.
"You can do nothing about this. In the end, I know my qualities and I know I'm not Messi. I'm Bojan. If people say 'this guy was not the new Messi', yeah I was not the new Messi."
"It's not easy," he continued. "Messi scores three goals every game. If you score one goal, you're not Messi. When I went to Rome and Milan, you go there not as Bojan, you go as a new star, a new Messi.
"So if you go there and play good, it's not enough. You need to be the best, you need to be the Messi. That's the thing that didn't help me.
"At the beginning, it's difficult to understand but with experience, you know what you can do."
Leaving the Camp Nou at 20-years-old:
"When I was there, you never imagine playing with another team or living in another city," said Bojan.
"When I made the decision, I went with my head, not my heart. My heart said 'here is your home, it's your place'.
"You don't know that after Barcelona there is a really nice world. I opened the door to say 'thank you and I'm going to do my own way'.
"When you open and see the many things waiting for you, at the start you're scared.
"A different shirt, fans, culture and mentality. But when you make this decision, the first step, then you feel really proud."