Two Years of Bojan
It seemed to be a rumour too good to be true, but two years ago today Bojan signed for Stoke City.
The Barcelona maestro had been touted to be one of the very best in the world and was now coming to the Potteries- for less than £1 million.
Within a week he’d scored his first goal for the club- a lovely low drive in a friendly at Ewood Park- but his competitive career began rather shakily.
Bojan was in and out of the team in the opening months and some Stoke fans had already written him off as past it.
Past it? This was a bloke just 23 years of age with two Champions League winner’s medals underneath his belt.
Sure, the hype that surrounded his explosion onto the first team scene at the Nou Camp may have stunted him somewhat, but there was still bags of talent in the pocket rocket’s boots.
After that slow start at Stoke, he was recalled to the starting line-up for a home match against West Ham in November. Stoke ripped the Hammers apart- despite ultimately drawing 2-2- with Bojan instrumental in all things great that day.
The following weekend he scored his first Premier League goal- a glorious strike in a 2-1 victory at Spurs. Bojan had well and truly arrived by this point.
He followed up those performances with man of the match displays against Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal- the latter in a memorable 3-2 victory at the Brit, with the Spaniard scoring a delicious volley.
Bojan’s arrival was a real coup for the club and he was widely touted as one of the form players in the division around Christmas time of 2014.
Not only was he great on the pitch, he was great off it too, embracing the culture of the area and always showing his pearly whites with that infectious smile. Much like his mate Marc Muniesa, Bojan had become an adopted Stokie.
His form showed no sign of ceasing as he scored the winning goals away to Everton and Leicester, before an incredible strike set Stoke on their way to a comfortable 4-1 win at Rochdale in the FA Cup.
But disaster struck that night at Spotland.
Bojan turned and fell to the ground. His season over with one innocuous movement. It was cruciate ligament damage. I’d never felt an injury affect me so much. It was like my girlfriend had cheated on me. I was absolutely gutted. Bojan’s season was over, and it felt like Stoke may as well pack their bags and give up for the remaining months.
The determination of Bojan to return was remarkable. He posted weekly video updates to keep fans in the loop, and returned to the football pitch just five months later.
His first competitive start since picking up the injury came in September of last year, when he scored a goal and picked up yet another man of the match award against eventual Champions Leicester.
Although he didn’t always reach the heights of his first campaign, Bojan scored an impressive seven goals over the course of the season and was a huge part of the team’s attacking displays against the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United.
With a full pre-season behind him Bojan is sure to only improve this coming campaign. You can tell he feels at home here. He’s adored by thousands and he bounces off that affection.
He often gets to Clayton Wood early on a matchday to soak in a few minutes of Stoke’s youth games, and what a thrill it must be for those kids to see a star taking time out to cheer them on.
Earlier this year he signalled his intention to continue his Stoke City story by signing a new contract.
He’s the type of player who has been the catalyst for us to bring in even better quality- the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Afellay were heavily influenced by Bojan being at the club- and as we progress, the former AC Milan and Roma man will continue to be a huge part of what we are trying to achieve.
He really is one of the greatest players this club has ever seen, and we’re blessed to have him.
Here’s to the next two years, Bo.
Trackback from your site.