Bojan Krkic offers hope for transitional Barcelona

After a turbulent few weeks at the club, the latest prodigy to emerge from the Barcelona youth system stole the limelight from recent talk of travel sickness, inflated egos and job security.

"It's incredible," glowed the 17 year old after scoring his first goal in front of home crowd. "Three months ago I was in the stands watching like any other fan."

Unlike the other 80,000 cules, however, Bojan's dream came true and after replacing the ineffectual Eidur Gudjonsen just after the hour, promptly netted his first goal at the Camp Nou.

"He has class, he scores goals and he has a spectacular future ahead of him," commented centre back Gabi Milito after the young striker's performance.
It was Bojan's second league goal of the season. A month ago he became the youngest player to score for Barcelona with his strike against Villarreal. Famous for the improbable 961 goals he scored at youth level, his performances with the Spain under-17 side and his unpronounceable surname, the diminutive Bojan Krkic follows in the equally small footsteps of Lionel Messi to graduate from the Barcelona youth teams with 'wonderkid' status.

Flashes of skill, vision, touch and two goals in the league and one in the Copa del Rey have already begun the 'Bojan for Spain' lobby. Luis Aragones may find himself under increasing pressure, depending on how the season pans out, to include the young forward in the Spain squad for Euro 2008. Yet while Bojan is a still learning his trade, the praise being lavished on the 17 year old is a timely diversion from the numerous problems at Barcelona.

Before the recent international fixtures, Barcelona crashed to their second away defeat of the season at the hands of Getafe, which unleashed a series of attacks on the side. Even their own president, Joan Laporta, said that Rijkaard "must take the necessary steps" to improve the away from, before offering the dreaded vote of confidence. "We have every confidence in Rijkaard and the backroom staff."

Last season it was Barcelona's results away from home that many believed gifted the title to Real Madrid. Since early December of last year Barcelona have won just five games away from home out of 19.

ord=Math.random()*10000000000000000;document.write('');
"We need to change our mentality way from home," said Deco after the Getafe debacle. "Teams play more aggressively against us," said the Portuguese international.

Perhaps he hadn’t seen Zambrotta's assault on Licht which earned the Italian a red card, but the feeling remains that Barcelona are a soft touch away from home. Meanwhile, the dressing room is even more divided than last year when Samuel Eto'o lambasted "certain" teammates for not working as hard as others. Just last week Edmilson told Catalan television that there is a "black sheep" in the group who is upsetting the balance. Nobody was so naive as to ask who he was talking about.

Ronaldinho has courted criticism for his below-par performances and lack of commitment to the team. He no longer enjoys the match winner status, having scored half the amount of goals as last season at this stage of the campaign, and his dire work rate irritates key members of the dressing room. His late night antics, meanwhile, irritate key members of the board.

While Ronaldinho is widely expected to leave the club at the end of the season, he is not the only one being shown the door. Reports suggest Xavi may be allowed to move as Barcelona prepare a bid to bring Cesc Fabregas back to Catalunya. Over the summer only Deco's insistence on staying put kept him at the Camp Nou.

All of this reflects poorly on Frank Rijkaard, who is unable to control the internal bickering ever since Ten Cate departed for Ajax, and then Chelsea. Rijkaard is expected be out of a job come Christmas, should Barcelona not beat Real Madrid on the 23rd of December. After the recent comments from Laporta regarding Rijkaard's position, online surveys showed that fans want to see Mourinho or Arsene Wenger brought in to whip the squad into shape. Espanyol's Ernesto Valverde is viewed as a more likely target.

Sporting director Txiki Begiristain believes that Barcelona "need to recover the team spirit" and improve "competition" for places in the team, pointing to the injuries to Thuram, Samuel Eto'o, Deco, Puyol, Giovanni amongst others as one of the problems.

This week Eto'o completed his first full training session since August and his return to the team and influence on the pitch will be vital for Barcelona to get back on track. The soap opera is far from over, and the clear out of the old guard may start sooner rather than later, but at least in Bojan, Barcelona have a new star in the making.

Have your say