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Brilliant Bojan finally showing past Barca promise

Stoke City boss Mark Hughes, 7/2 to guide the Potters to a top 10 finish, has joined a chorus of praise for summer signing Bojan Krkic.

“Bojan’s been playing exceptionally well. That’s the level he is used to,” the Potters boss said, following the player’s part in the 3-2 win over Arsenal, which saw him net the second goal.

“I sense that big-stage mentality about him. He demands the ball, he takes responsibility.”

Eyebrows were certainly raised over summer, when rumours of Barcelona star Bojan’s mooted move to unlikely Stoke reared their head.

A La Masia-trained product, the highest ever scorer in the Catalan giants’ famed youth ranks, Bojan has experienced football at several clubs considered amongst Europe’s elite, including AC Milan, Ajax and Roma. Teams all famed for their love of the beautiful game.

Despite Stoke’s ‘revolution’ under former Barca forward Mark Hughes, who was no doubt a key component in luring young Bojan to the Britannia Stadium, his side are still tarred with a reputation as battlers, bruisers and game-spoilers.

Wiry Bojan, still just 24, is renowned for his quick-feet, dribbling and aesthetic play, often with little end product to show for it, making him appear an odd-fit for the pragmatic Potters.

The Spain-capped star promised much in his early career, bursting onto the scene at Barca to break Lionel Messi’s record of youngest-ever debutant for the club at 17.

After failing to transfer his youth academy performances to the first-team consistently enough, Bojan packed his bags and departed his boyhood club for Serie A side Roma.

The technically gifted attacker continued to show glimpses of his talent, but not frequently, or convincingly, enough for the Giallorossi or subsequent loan club AC Milan to fork out his full fee.

Similar disappointment awaited in Amsterdam, after Ajax also sent Bojan back to Barcelona, where there was no more room at the inn.

Available for a cut-price fee, Hughes pounced on the Spaniard’s potential, using his Catalan connections again, to bring him him to the Britannia. It looks to have been a masterstroke.

Bojan was sensational in pre-season, stealing headlines and lauded as Stoke’s saviour. The starlet’s jinking runs and positive play promised a new style for the West Midlands men, but once the Premier League campaign started Bojan faded yet again.

Since returning from injury niggles, however, the astute attacker has adapted magnificently, with his versatility, directness and pace all providing the Potters with a new dimension, and keeping playmaker Charlie Adam out of the team.

Frequently the best player at the Britannia, Bojan appears to have finally found a home, and a stage, in the unlikeliest of places.

While the Spanish forward is charged with helping change Stoke’s style, the Staffordshire-based outfit has also had a notable impact on their star player. Against Arsenal and Manchester United Bojan dazzled, but also showed a fantastic workrate and willingness to track back.

When facing the Gunners’ dreadful defence, in-form Bojan caused havoc, scoring his first with a crisp, clean finish after bursting unchallenged into the box.

His scintillating second strike was unfairly ruled offside, but the tricky 24-year-old’s threat on the break later resulted in Calum Chambers seeing red.

If the Stoke star can continue in this fine vein of from for club, proving it is not once again just a flash in the pan, perhaps a re-call to the Spain squad awaits.