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Why the loss of Bojan could break Stoke’s season

It isn’t every day that a former Barcelona star signs for Stoke City. So when Bojan Krkic joined the Potters this summer, the footballing world went into a state of shock. Could he do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke?

At the time, it seemed like the ultimate coup for Mark Hughes’ new look Stoke. This is a player who broke Lionel Messi’s record to become the youngest ever first-team debutant at Barca. There was so much hype surrounding Bojan at the Camp Nou; the next starlet from La Masia who was also expected to dominate the international stage.

Bojan went on to make over 160 appearances for Barca before he moved to pastures new in 2011, joining Serie A side Roma. It was here when Bojan’s promising career began to slide.

He failed to make a mark at Roma, and loan spells at AC Milan and Ajax saw a poultry return of seven goals from over 40 games. Bojan was in danger of falling into the footballing abyss, until Stoke snapped him up for a tiny fee of £1.3m last summer.

Initially, he struggled to take the Britannia Stadium by storm. It wasn’t until November that he became a regular starter, and from there Bojan never looked back. 4 goals and 1 assist followed in the next 9 games, and for the first time since his Barcalona days, Bojan looked like he was enjoying his football again.

Playing as the number 10 in a 4-2-3-1 system, Bojan is given plenty of freedom by Hughes to express himself on the pitch. He epitomises this new Stoke side we are seeing in the Premier League; after years of being berated for their physical and aggressive playing style, Stoke now play some of the best football in the division.

Hughes has got his side playing the ball out from the back, and looking to start attacks through short, sharp and intricate passing, quite the contrary to how Stoke played under Tony Pulis not too long ago.

But on Monday night in the FA Cup away at Rochdale, Stoke suffered huge blow. After putting the Potters ahead with a stunning left foot volley, Bojan was substituted before half-time and scans later revealed he had sustained a knee ligament injury and would miss the rest of the season.

Hughes has stated how gutted he is about the news, and you can see why. With 5 goals from his last 10 games in all competitions, Bojan was bang in form and offered Stoke so much in attack. The Potters had moved up to 10th place in the league table, only 7 points behind Arsenal in 6th. Some sections of the media were even backing the Linyola-born star to add to his single Spanish cap sooner rather than later.

What will be interesting now is how Stoke bounce back from this. They are still a talented side who, with Bojan, would have been challenging for a place in the Europa League come May. That doesn’t mean they still can’t achieve this, it just seems a much harder task now.

There is no doubt that Bojan has resurrected his career in Staffordshire, and what’s important for him now is to come back and start next season with a bang.

It’s easy to forget that Bojan is still only 24 years of age, so time is on his side. He has categorically answered the question of whether he can do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke. However, it was a cold Monday night in Rochdale that proved costly for the Catalonian wizard.

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