Player once dubbed Barcelona’s ‘next Messi’ retires after Stoke City disaster

A former Premier League star, once dubbed the next Lionel Messi, has announced his retirement following a two-year stint in Japan.

Bojan Krkic, 32, can lay claim as the first from La Masia's prestigious academy to draw comparison with the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner after an article was published by French outlet Foot Mercato, headlined "Bojan Krkic: the future Messi?".

And while the former Stoke City star did show glimpses of the close control and mazy dribbles that resembled the persona of the silky Argentine, his time at the Britannia Stadium can be categorised as widely underwhelming.

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The two-time Champions League winner was earmarked as a major coup for The Potters in 2014 as new manager Mark Hughes ripped up the 'lump-it-long' blueprint that had served the club so well under previous boss Tony Pulis.

Bojan penned a four-year deal at the Britannia Stadium but made just 16 appearances in his debut term having suffered a knee injury in January that ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Joined by ex-Barca team-mate Ibrahim Afellay prior to the start of the 2015/16 campaign, the attacking midfielder scored on his first start back from injury and his performances were rewarded with a new deal until 2020.

Yet a downturn in form saw him lose his place in the side, spending the majority of the rest of the season on the bench and by January 2017 Bojan admitted he was desperate for regular football.

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Shipped out on loan to Mainz and Alaves, Stoke were a Championship club by the time he returned but he was unable to impress either Gary Rowett or his replacement Nathan Jones and Bojan's contract was mutually terminated in August 2019.

Following an 18-month stint at Montreal Impact, the playmaker joined Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe, playing alongside another La Masia graduate in Andres Iniesta. Bojan announced his retirement via a ceremony at Camp Nou on Thursday stating: "These decisions are not easy. I have been away from home for 12 years and I feel fulfilled professionally.

"I wanted to enjoy the next stage [of my life] closer to my family. It's not a physical issue. I have had three injuries, but I recovered, I am 100%. It is a feeling, it's the reality. I am more excited about doing other things now than to keep playing football. I am grateful for everything I have experienced.

"I have played for Barcelona, I've played with great players, I have won trophies and I have played in other leagues. But I am ready to start new things now."


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