From 'next Messi' to global journeyman (2024)

But ex-Barca prodigy Bojan immensely proud of wayfaring career

From 'next Messi' to global journeyman (1)

Former Barcelona prodigy Bojan Krkic is playing in his seventh country and "would not change anything" about a career that started with him labeled the next Lionel Messi and now sees him in Japan.

Many young forwards have been hyped up as the new Messi, but Bojan-who even had the same floppy hair as the Argentine-genuinely looked destined for the very top.

At 17 years and 19 days, the Spaniard in 2007 became the youngest player to represent Barcelona in La Liga, taking the record previously held by Messi. Bojan went on to score 41 goals in 163 games for the club.

Fast-forward and Bojan, now 31, has been reunited with former Barca teammate Andres Iniesta in Japan after joining Vissel Kobe last summer following stints of varying success in Italy, Holland, England, Germany and Canada.

"All the situations, all the experiences that you have-not only in soccer but in life-everything can be better and everything can be worse," he told AFP of his wandering path since leaving Camp Nou in 2011.

"I'm playing my 15th year as a professional footballer at a high level in the big leagues, big clubs. I'm really proud of everything that I did."

Bojan said he was "living a dream" after breaking into Barcelona's first team as a teenager and playing alongside club legends such as Ronaldinho, Xavi Hernandez and, of course, Messi.

He won two Champions League and three Spanish league titles with the club he joined as a 9-year-old, but his time there came to an end when he was sold to Italian side Roma.

He said he "didn't realize that there was a world behind the Barcelona door" until he left for the Italian capital, but he is glad that he broadened his horizons.

"I realized that there are many clubs, many countries, many places to live and learn. Thanks to football, I had this opportunity," he said.

"In every place that I've been, I learn, I enjoy, I suffer. I grow as a person and as a footballer, and I'm really proud of that."

Stoke hero

Bojan failed to make an impression during stints with Roma, AC Milan and Ajax, but he says he played "probably the best" soccer of his career during three and a half seasons in England with Stoke City. He is still fondly remembered there.

He helped the Potters finish in the top half of the Premier League every season from 2013 to 2016 under manager Mark Hughes and says the club will "always be in my heart".

"The Premier League is for me the best league in the world, it's where you enjoy real football, proper football," he said.

"In all the stadiums where you play, you can smell the history, you can smell the respect for the sport and for the players."

Now Bojan is in Japan playing alongside Iniesta, who is still going strong despite turning 38 earlier this month.

Bojan says that the World Cup-winning Spain legend has not given him any indication of when he will retire and that the pair "only speak about the moment".

Xavi, a former Barcelona teammate of both players, returned to Camp Nou last year to take over as head coach.

Bojan believes Iniesta can "do whatever he wants" when he finally hangs up his boots.

"He can be a coach if he wants, he can be a sports director, he can be involved in business," said Bojan.

"I think he can help a lot with the personal side of the players-the values of the sport that you can learn from a player like him."

As for Bojan himself, he says he has no thoughts of retiring just yet but is already making plans to move into the administration end of things when he does.

He started a course in sports management when the pandemic began and thinks he would be better suited working as a general manager than a coach on the touchlines.

"For me, I think the most important thing when you sign a player is that you sign a human," he said.

"I like that side, to understand a player, to build a team that can win, but also to build a team that you can help players to grow."


From 'next Messi' to global journeyman (2024)


From 'next Messi' to global journeyman? ›

Former Barcelona prodigy Bojan Krkic is playing in his seventh country and "would not change anything" about a career that started with him labeled the next Lionel Messi and now sees him in Japan.

Who was supposed to be the next Messi? ›

21 players named 'The Next Lionel Messi'
Marko MarinRetired
Juan IturbeCerro Porteno
Alen HaliliovicFortuna Sittard
Jean Marie DongouWithout club
18 more rows
Feb 22, 2024

Who was called next Messi? ›

Claudio Echeverri: Argentina's 'next Lionel Messi' destined for superstardom at Man City.

Who is the next Lionel Messi in Argentina? ›

Known as the 'next Lionel Messi' in Argentina, Echeverri has appeared in six senior league matches for River Plater in the current season, where he has scored once and provided as many assists.

Where will Messi play 2025? ›

Inter Miami will introduce the Argentina superstar on Sunday night at its stadium in Fort Lauderdale. Lionel Messi has finalised his deal to join Major League Soccer, and after years of planning and pursuing, Inter Miami has landed a global icon.

Who will replace Messi after retirement? ›

Kylian Mbappe

It is Mbappe who appears to be the leading contender to take on the mantle from Messi and Ronaldo, if measured in the potential to go on and win numerous Ballon d'Or titles. On the international stage, Mbappe already has a World Cup medal to his name with France.

Who is better than Messi? ›

Cristiano Ronaldo vs Lionel Messi: Titles
Cristiano RonaldoCompetitionLionel Messi
5Champions League4
4Club World Cup3
4National Cups*7
5 more rows
Jan 31, 2024

Who will be the next Ronaldo? ›

João Félix (Atlético Madrid)

The 19-year-old has been compared to his fellow countryman Ronaldo yet he has the same build and low centre of gravity as Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona. Getting the ball off him is much harder than it looks and he knows where the net is too.

Who will be the next Maradona? ›

Lionel Messi. Lionel Messi has universally been considered as Maradona's successor which earned him the title, an assertion supported by Maradona himself.

Will Messi play again in 2026? ›

Lionel Messi will play at the 2026 World Cup if Argentina retain the Copa America next year, according to Nicolas Tagliafico.

What team is Messi on 2024? ›

There's a reason why Inter Miami CF's 2024 season is the most anticipated in Major League Soccer history.

What games is Messi playing in 2024? ›

MLS 2024 Season Schedule: When will Messi play?
  • Feb. 24-25: MLS is Back weekend. ...
  • May 11-18: Rivalry Week. ...
  • July 4: El Tráfico at the Rose Bowl. ...
  • July 24: MLS All-Star Game. ...
  • July 26-August 25: Leagues Cup. ...
  • Oct. ...
  • Dec. ...
  • Inter Miami 2024 matches.
Feb 23, 2024

How many goals does Messi have? ›

He has scored 826 goals for club and country throughout his professional career and is also the first and only player in history to win five and six European Golden Shoes. During his football career, he won 44 collective trophies.

How much did Miami pay Messi? ›

Lionel Messi's contract with Inter Miami will pay him a base salary of $12 million and more than $20.4 million in guaranteed compensation, according to figures released Wednesday by the MLS Players Assn.

Why is Messi not playing 2026? ›

"I am not thinking about the World Cup and I am not saying 100 percent that I will not be there because anything can happen," Messi told Star+ one year on from Qatar. "Given my age, the most normal thing is that I will not be there. Then we will see to what extent. Maybe we do well in the Copa America and we continue.

Who was called the next Messi in Barcelona? ›

1 Bojan. Once hailed the proper heir to Messi's thrown, even while the Argentinian was still relatively young, Bojan Krkic was catapulted into the limelight when he made his debut for Barcelona at just 17.

Who will be the successor of Messi and Ronaldo? ›

One name stands out above all as the natural heir to the big two: Kylian Mbappe.

Who is the new Messi in River Plate? ›

Claudio Echeverri has been backed to replace Lionel Messi in the Argentina national team. Manchester City signed the 18-year-old attacking midfielder from River Plate in January for £12.5million plus add-ons.

Who is the next Messi for Liverpool? ›

Montpellier winger Mousa Tamari is – according to Anfield Watch – being tracked by Liverpool and was dubbed the 'Jordanian Messi' by fans of his former club APOEL.

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