The rebirth of Bojan; how the former Barcelona man is revelling at Stoke

Stoke City grabbed a superb away win at St, Mary’s last weekend, thanks to a solitary strike by Bojan.

Aside from the surprise home defeat to Watford a month ago, Mark Hughes’ side are showing excellent form. Little Bojan, has played no small part.

His beautifully improvised finish against Southampton was typical of the man. Stylish, effortless and eye-catching.

It will have tugged at the heart strings of Football Manager fanatics everywhere. Earlier versions of the game contained a youngster so prodigiously talented that his capture almost guaranteed European domination.

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It was perhaps that Bojan began to show his promise at such an early age, that he was so thoroughly earmarked as a future global star and one who would conquer football in a fashion pleasing to the purists.

Fast forward eight years and the diminutive forward finds himself in the midst of the Potteries, of all places.

Stoke City, granted, are no longer the physical but highly effective long ball merchants of the Tony Pulis era. The Mark Hughes vintage have a much more expansive style, but even the manager himself is likely to have been somewhat surprised that he was able to bring the former Barcelona man to the Britannia.

Upon signing him in the summer of 2014, the Welshman spoke of how exciting the deal was for his club. At that time Bojan’s CV read: Barcelona, Roma, AC Milan, Ajax.

For a player with the key attributes of the 25-year-old, the Premier League always looked an unlikely destination and a club like Stoke, the unlikeliest of them all for a man so slight.

Bojan though, has found a niche for himself. It took him a while to adjust to the so-called “rigours” but Mark Hughes, aware of the talent within, was prepared to give him time.

By this time last season, the little Catalan had started to catch the eye with his touch and movement. Injury though, as has frequently been the case, ended his season early. But this year that form has been rediscovered and perhaps even surpassed.

Hughes gives the diminutive schemer license and a certain degree of freedom to express himself, which is starting to reap rewards.

His technical qualities have come to the fore and he is showing himself to be capable of putting at least some of the almost mythical talent he displayed as a youngster to good use.

He had only just turned 17 when he made his debut for one for the biggest clubs on the planet but Bojan sadly has impressed only sporadically since then. His natural gift for the beautiful game has never been questioned, but his ability to transfer that immense talent into measurable success, coupled with injury troubles, have often let him down.

The key for him and indeed Potters’ fans however is his age. At just 25, the Spaniard has most of his career still in front of him and is vastly experienced compared to most players his age.

This, coupled with his outstanding technique and the benefit of a football education at the famed La Masia academy, leaves him superbly equipped for the future.

Bojan has always been a player admired by the neutral, someone who drew attention with a pleasing flick, neat footwork or spectacular shot. Can he now though become a force to be reckoned with, a player to be feared rather than merely appreciated?

Stoke are sitting in 11th place, looking comfortable and playing an attractive brand of the game.

They are blessed with creativity in abundance with the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Xherdan Shaquiri and Bojan himself.

If Bojan can continue to show signs of becoming the player his 17-year-old Football Manager alter ego promised, who knows what he and Stoke, could yet achieve in the game.

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