x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Almeria feel force of Krkic

Like predecessors Lionel Messi and Giovanni Dos Santos, Barcelona's homegrown teenage striker Bojan Krkic was welcomed into the first-team fold in a blaze of hyperbole.

Like predecessors Lionel Messi and Giovanni Dos Santos, Barcelona's homegrown teenage striker Bojan Krkic was welcomed into the first-team fold in a blaze of hyperbole. Messi flourished and exceeded the impossible expectations, while Dos Santos wilted in the Mediterranean sun and was sold to Tottenham Hotspur. Bojan is somewhere in between. A revelation in the youth ranks, the Catalan with a Serb father was promoted to the first team by Frank Rijkaard two years ago.

Small and lightweight, Bojan's outstanding natural ability and goalscoring instinct saw him and become Barça's youngest ever goalscorer aged 16 in 2007, the year he made his debut. Comparisons with Gary Linker abounded, so Bojan was frustrated when played on the wing rather than as a central striker, but he still netted 12 in 48 first-team appearances in 2007-08 including the only away goal in the Champions League quarter-final at Shalke O4.

Still, doubts remained. Was he really Barca class? Sensing not, lesser clubs have recently been circling. Bojan maintained that he just wanted more starts, a desire granted on Sunday at Almeria with leading scorer Samuel Eto'o and his striker partner Thierry Henry relegated to the bench. Bojan then emphatically quietened critics with two goals in three minutes as Barca won 2-0, the victory restoring the Catalans' six-point lead over Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Liga with 11 league matches still remaining.

"I'm happy to have taken my opportunity to score twice," Bojan said. "We are still in three competitions and will need all our players - and hopefully that includes me because I've worked very hard in training." amitten@thenational.ae