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Messi’s Cousin Was BETTER Than Him, But Then What Happened?

Imagine this, it’s 2008 and you’re in charge of Barcelona, you look across the training  pitch, you see Xavi, Iniesta, Eto’o and then staring right back at you is a 21 year  old Lionel Messi, who’s about to make the Ballon D’Or podium for the first time…  you have the world in your hands.

Then out of nowhere you’re told to take a look into the youth team, because there’s  one kid that might just grab your attention…  You go and immediately your eyes drift towards him, he starts dribbling and you think to  yourself “uh he kinda dribbles like Messi”, he scores and passes by you as he runs back  to his own half, you put your hands to your head in disbelief, he even looks like him.

And if you were already thanking god for this fortunate coincidence, imagine how you felt  once you realized that incredibly these argentinian and serbian boys who had never seen each other,  were long distance cousins.

Unbelievable.

Messi was yet to enter his prime and just like that you had found his replacement.

You might just get lucky and have your own little Messi clone to play right beside him,  football would not be fair, it had to be too good to be true, and unfortunately it was…  Welcome to the story of Bojan Krkic, the first “next Messi”, he played like him, he looked  like him, but in the end it was obvious he quite simply wasn’t him.

But let’s go back to the beginning…  It all started in 1990, when Bojan Krkric Senior finally decided to retire from professional  football, having played everywhere from Serbia, to Croatia and finally Spain.

Now with plenty more time to focus on his home life, he and his wife had a son, very  originally named Bojan Krkic Jr.

Time went by and Mr. Bojan Sr. got himself a job as a youth coach and similarly to Messi,  whose talent was discovered after he had to play a youth game to fill in for some boys  who failed to show up, Bojan Sr. ends up having to play his own son for those same reasons.

If every other time Bojan was just there to watch, that day he was the one to put on the  show.

The second he hit the pitch, he stole the ball and darted towards goal like his life  depended on it.

His parents yelled at him to calm down, after all the kids were all 2 years older than him  but by the end of the match he had gotten himself 2 goals…  From there on out, Bojan’s notoriety kept going up and up and by the age of 7 he was  a local legend.

Bojan couldn’t go a day without playing and with summer arriving and practice suspended,  he had to be sent to football summer camp.

For all he knew, he was just playing for fun, but over in the stands was Joan Martinez Vilaseca,  one of Barcelona’s top scouts, responsible for finding Mikel Arteta, Xavi and Fabrégas.

Once the session was done, he got on the phone and told FC Barcelona, “you have to come  see this kid, he does things not even the senior players can do”.

They wasted no time and once they did see him, they were immediately convinced.

The day he arrived at La Masia, everyone was impressed by how easily he fit in.. by the  end of the training session, he had scored 7 goals.

From then on out it was just record after record.

Right on his first season, it is claimed he scored 126 goals, absolutely absurd numbers  that convinced Barcelona to fund his family’s move to the city, even bringing in his grandparents  as they began worrying that the kid was struggling mentally.

Over the years, Bojan went on to become not just one of the greatest youth products to  come out of La Masia, but one of the greatest football had ever seen.

And at the age of 15, Bojan got the call that changed his life forever, the Spanish under  17 national team wanted him to represent them at the euros even if that meant being among  players up to 2 years older than him.

With an easy first match against Luxembourg, Bojan was allowed to test the waters, you  know, to see if he could compete…  The result was a hat trick in 28 minutes.

Maybe it would be the older players who would struggle to keep up with his pace.

The next match, against Russia, oddly enough they still decided to bench him, but as they  struggled, he came in late and inspired the comeback, before scoring yet again against  Hungary.

As they headed into the semi finals as the tournament favorites, it all seemed set for  them to succeed, but then his teammate got sent off, launching them towards a shocking  exit to the Czech Republic.

Regardless, despite only once playing more than 40 minutes throughout the whole tournament,  Bojan still ended up topping the goal scoring charts.

After this immense performance, it was decided that Bojan’s youth academy days were over,  joining the B squad, after becoming La Masia’s all time top scorer with 889 goals.

He had managed to break nearly every record set by Lionel Messi only a few years after  he had set them.

Despite having a relatively hard time adjusting to the B team, that same year Bojan debuted  for the main team in a friendly against Al-Ahly and as quick as that it was then time to play  the under 17 euros once again.

Now 16, the age gap was a much less significant issue and everyone expected Bojan to show  up and tough he would go completely goalless throughout the group stage, once they hit  the knockouts he went ballistic, scoring their only goal in the semi finals, as the win was  secured through a penalty shootout and then scoring the only goal in the final to make  up for last year’s blunder and make Spain champions of europe.

And if playing two international tournaments in such little time, seemed already like a  stretch, 3 months later Spain would take it all up a notch, calling Bojan for the under-17  world cup.

They knew they had one of the best among their squad, and they were gonna squeeze every bit  of juice out of the kid.

They didn’t even care if he had a knee injury, they just completely ignored every one of  Barcelona’s requests for him to be given some recovery time and even stopped them from  sending a medic to monitor his situation.

Regardless, 2 minutes into the tournament, he had already scored his first goal and by  the end of that match, he had gotten his second.

By the time they arrived at the knockout stages, once again Bojan got himself a brace and in  the semi finals, he brought the drama into the match, scoring minutes before the end  of extra time, to send Spain onto the finals before getting his second yellow card with  seconds left on the clock and being forced to miss the final, where surprisingly Spain  lost on penalties to Nigeria.

Even if this hadn’t been his best tournament to date, the success at the Euros just a few  months earlier had captured the attention of everyone in Spain and that attention set  off something in Bojan’s brain that would forever impact the rest of his career.

As he said it himself “At the world cup, my life changed.

No one knew me, but when I came back, I couldn’t even walk down the road anymore.

It seems like a good thing but your head gets weighed down by these thoughts and one day  your body just says “stop””.

I sincerely hope m ost of you can’t relate to these feelings but if you can, you can  easily tell these were the words of someone developing a serious anxiety disorder.

Still…Once again, alongside success on the international stage, came recognition at Barcelona,  with Bojan being moved up to the main squad and getting his debut against Osasuna shortly  after becoming 17 years old.

In the space of the next 30 days, he would play his first champions league match and  get his first goal for the club, becoming the youngest Barcelona player to ever achieve  any of those 3 things and snatching all 3 records from of course Lionel Messi.

It was no surprise when the name Bojan was replaced in everyone’s heads by something  else, he was known as the next Messi.

By the end of his debut season he had 10 league goals, averaging a goal contribution every  90 minutes and breaking Raul’s record for the most goals scored in a La Liga debut season.

But regardless of that success, once out of the safety net that was Barcelona, his mental  health problems surfaced.

It was February of 2008 when Bojan was called up to debut for the Spanish national team  against France, as he saw his name in the starting line up, he knew he would be the  youngest ever player to debut for Spain, it was a huge achievement, everyone would be  so proud, everyone would be watching, the whole world expected him to succeed…  With this sentence looping over and over again in his head, Bojan was overcome by so much  anxiety that he had a panic attack so strong he started feeling dizzy.

By the time he got himself together, laying in the physio’s bed, he knew he couldn’t  take the pressure and so he withdrew from the match.

Despite all of the achievements I already listed, that season it happened again and  again, sometimes he felt dizzy 24 hours a day, he recalls feeling this pressure in his  skull, like his head would explode….

Bojan became weaker and weaker, fearing his panic attacks as much as he feared becoming  a disappointment, which meant he just kept on snowballing, never breaking the cycle,  until a decisive moment came.

The federation came calling asking how he was… they wanted him to play at the 2008  euros.

Bojan tried to delay his decision, hoping he’d recover in time, but in the end he  had to make the hard decision to just reject the call up.

He assumed everyone would understand, but quickly after it hit the news and the headlines  could care less how he felt.

As he said it himself “I remember going on the street and people insulting me: they  didn’t know, they just thought I didn’t wanna play.

The headlines killed me, it was as if I didn’t care.

What hurt the most is that it certainly came from the federation.

Suddenly I felt very alone, I was scared, I was ill, I didn’t know what to do”.

Back at Barcelona, Frank Rijkaard had now been replaced with Pep Guardiola and if, so  far, Bojan was being given a reasonable chance at any stage.

With Guardiola, he would pretty much be played only in cup matches and against low ranked  teams, frequently coming off the bench with less than 10 minutes on the clock.

Regardless he kept pushing, finally debuting for the national team, making the podium of  the golden boy award for 2008 and then even scoring in the final of the Copa Del Rey,  but still you could see the frustration settling in, especially as his teammates went on to  win the Champions League pretty much without him.

Out of nowhere he was now on the outside looking in, he had just won a treble at 18 years of  age but it didn’t feel like it.

In his third season, he gave it everything he had to make sure he would earn his place  among the squad.

Early on he scored in the supercup, then in just 2 minutes he got a goal against Stuttgart  and finally as Barcelona were second in the league with 11 matches to go, Bojan would  score 7 goals in the 8 matches he got to feature in, being absolutely essential to Barcelona’s  late comeback to win the league.

He was on top of the world, he had done it, he felt surely now Guardiola would value him  enough to get him a proper place in the squad… but over summer, David Villa arrived and Bojan  could clearly see why that was… he was being discarded.

It was at this point, Bojan started pushing for an exit but Barcelona kept him on the  hook, first they gave him the number 9 shirt, then they let him captain the team in a cup  game, you know… they tried to keep him happy.

Despite all of that, Bojan experienced his worst season to date and by the end, despite  winning another Champions League, to which he barely got to contribute, he finally moved  away in a complicated transfer to Roma, who paid 12 million at first, having to pay 28  million after two seasons if they were to keep the player.

As Bojan squirmed to escape the pressures of the constant comparassions to Messi, he  got hit with the most unexpected plot twist of all time.

As a study was being done on the family tree of Lionel Messi, researchers were shocked  to find out that one of the grandkids of the cousins of Messi’s great grandparents who  immigrated to Argentina, ended up marrying a certain serbian footballer and giving birth  to Bojan Krkric, in short, Bojan and Messi were cousins, since their great great grandparents  were brothers.

A bit confusing but I hope you all understood.

The key takeaway from this is that when he finally seemed bound to escape the title of  next Messi, a viral bit of news just made it a million times worse.

At Roma, things didn’t go well at all… they failed to qualify to the Europa League, Bojan  quickly became just a bench warmer and by the end of the season despite still having  the right to keep him on for at least one more season, Roma were so done, they just  loaned him out to AC Milan, once more with an option to buy.

Regardless, after a full season with only 3 goals scored, no one seemed interested in  letting go of a single penny to secure Bojan.

So Barcelona came to the rescue and pretty much refunded Roma the 13 million they had  paid, having one goal in mind.

To revitalize his career.

But if they knew at Barcelona things hadn’t worked out, they set up a transfer for him  to join the next best thing, Ajax.

With the legendary Johan Cruyff pulling the strings behind all of this, Bojan was convinced  to move to Amsterdam.

It seemed like the perfect opportunity but also most likely his last.

After 32 games, Bojan’s form was indeed looking up but it still wasn’t enough and  once again he was sent back to Barcelona.

It was at this moment that there was another huge shift.

Bojan was done, no more moving around, no more trying to fit in at top clubs, he wanted  to do things the old fashioned way, go to a smaller club where he would be seen as a  valuable asset and earn his way back to the top.

Even if some mocked him for his now 1.8 million euro price tag, or the fact he had gone from  Barcelona to Stoke City, It was still invigorating to see…  If once he felt completely lost, now he was taking charge of his fate, hope was alive  once more.

But by the end of November he had played the full 90 once… could it be that not even  Stoke City saw him as good enough?  Well, Mark Hughes claimed he was just giving him time to adapt to English football and  in fact, once he became a regular starter, things took off and for a few months he began  showing good signs with goals against Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester leading Stoke to go  against all odds and defeat all three.

And just when the fans began cheering for his name once again, he went into a FA Cup  match against Rochdale, scored after just 4 minutes and then… he ruptured his anterior  cruciate ligament. 7 months went by, sitting on the sidelines,  but as always Bojan then surprised everyone by bouncing back once again, it really was  a career full of highs and lows and this time, they saw him score against Leicester, then  against United to inspire another historic win and finally even assisting the only goal  at Anfield as Stoke was one penalty shootout away from making the final of the league cup.

However, despite further goals against Liverpool and Man City, his big game player trait wasn’t  enough to warrant him a steady place in the team’s formation and once again feeling  frustrated he went on another streak of transfers, with two loan moves over the next two seasons  to Mainz and Alavés, scoring a single goal for each club, before giving a go at joining  Stoke in the Championship and then throwing it all away for the comfort of the MLS, at  just 28 years old, where he would not experience that much success either, eventually following  the footsteps of Lukas Podolski, David Villa and Vermallean, joining Iniesta at Vissel  Kobe in Japan where he still plays to this day despite only making 11 appearances over  the last 2 years.

As a final note I’d like to leave with another quote by the man himself: “They say my career  turned out bad.

They said I was meant to be the next Messi.

Well if you’re gonna compare me to Messi, then what kind of success were you expecting?

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