Stoke City fans will have heads in hands today as it has been confirmed that star player Bojan Krkić has ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
The 24-year-old was hurt in Monday night’s 4-1 win over Rochdale in the FA Cup, and is now set to miss the rest of the 2014-15 campaign.
The news is a bitter blow for the player, who was something of a surprise signing for the Potters in the summer but has started to show why he was so highly rated during his early days at Barcelona.
The sprightly forward has played his part in revitalising Mark Hughes’ side this term, in an ongoing project at the club to transition the team’s tactics from a direct style to a more possession-based ethos.
Bojan’s footballing intelligence and technique have been on show at Stoke this season, with the player taking up clever positions between opposition defences and midfields to pick the ball up in space and unleash the likes of Marko Arnautović and Mame Biram Diouf.
The Spaniard has scored four Premier League goals this term and rifled home a sublime strike in the cup tie earlier this week before picking up his injury.
For Bojan, the opportunity to play regularly has been a real bonus, with the forward going from fringe status at previous clubs to become the main man at the Britannia Stadium.
His move to the club raised some eyebrows in the summer given the reputation and calibre of former employers, but in truth the switch has been ideal in revitalising his flailing career.
A product of Barcelona’s fabled La Masia youth academy, Bojan generated mass hysteria with superlative performances for the Catalan outfit’s youth sides and in a solitary campaign with the B team as a youngster in 2006-07.
The starlet’s style of play and physique saw many comparing him to Lionel Messi, with Bojan breaking the Argentine’s record and becoming the Camp Nou outfit’s youngest ever player upon making his competitive debut for the club in September 2007.
Initially Bojan started to live up to the hype as a unique part of a devastating Barcelona attack, and finished his first senior campaign with ten goals to his name.
Over time, the skilful forward found first-team opportunities harder and harder to come by, with his relationship with Pep Guardiola becoming increasingly strained.
He also has two Champions League medals in his armoury, but in reality played very little in the latter stages of both campaigns.
The regular week-in, week-out football that he craved was not forthcoming at any of these sides, but the star still displayed glimpses of his substantial ability on occasion but was the victim of a lack of continuity due to not playing enough.
With a return to Barcelona in the summer after an underwhelming spell in Amsterdam, the prospect of competing with Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez for a place in the Blaugrana’s team was unenviable – despite Bojan having a strong relationship with coach Luis Enrique.
The player has been reborn to some degree at Stoke and has subsided fears that the physical nature of English football could inhibit his talent.
His injury will have a real bearing on the remainder of the Potters’ season and is an unwelcome speed bump on Bojan’s route back to stardom.
For the football purist, the former Barcelona prodigy’s absence from Premier League action is certainly a loss, with high hopes that Bojan can return to his best form next season.