It was announced on July 22 that Bojan Krkić, Catalan native and here to fore FC Barcelona lifer, is taking his talents to the Eternal City. AS Roma are paying €12 million to secure his services for two seasons, at which point Barcelona will be obligated to buy him back for €13 million, UNLESS Roma are willing to pay an additional €28 million to acquire him permanently.
Bojan’s relationship with Pep Guardiola, who was also his coach with Barça’s B squad, has grown frosty in recent years, as he’s not received the time on the pitch that he feels he’s due- he played 1,459 minutes in 2007-08 season, a figure that has fallen to 702, then 988 and 928 minutes over the past three. Additionally, he’s felt slighted that Guardiola passed him over for even token appearance in each of the club’s last two Champions League finals, opting instead for players that had made lesser contributions in the tournament’s earlier stages.
"As a fan, Guardiola is the best coach in the world, but personal things that have happened to me were hurtful," Bojan said. "He was not fair with me on several occasions, and this is one of the reasons that I decided to leave."
Given this tenuous condition into which Bojan’s relationship with Pep Guardiola has fallen, the move is likely in the best interest of all parties involved.
From the club’s perspective, the transaction is essentially a loan that injects liquidity into the coffers in the short term. Barring staggering progress in his development, it’s highly unlikely that Roma will be willing to pay an additional €28 million to keep Bojan in the fold. As a result, the deal amounts to Barcelona availing themselves of the next two years of Bojan’s salary (estimated to be ~€6 million) and boosting liquidity by €12 million, in exchange for a payment of €1 million two years from now. Meanwhile, Roma adds a young (he’ll turn 21 on August 28), talented and reasonably priced attacker- one with considerable top-flight experience- for two years, culminating in a deferred payment that nets them 15-20% of his salary for that period.
For the player himself, the deal represents an opportunity to become a fixture at a top European club and "be happy about football again." He will do so under the tutelage of highly respected FC Barcelona alumni, Luis Enrique and Ivan De La Peña. It is speculated that Enrique, a former Barcelona B squad coach, will be Guardiola’s eventual successor on the Barcelona sideline which, combined with the aforementioned terms of the deal, leaves the door open for a Gerard Pique-esque return to the Camp Nou.
In the aftermath of the announcement, Adi-Oula Sebastian posted an article- which I greatly encourage you to read, if you’ve not already done so- in which he voiced his full-throated support for Bojan’s departure. He does so on the grounds that he simply lacked the quality to command the playing time he desires (with Barcelona, at least), adding that his ties to the region and the club have afforded him more opportunities than his performances warranted. From an objective and analytical position, I agree with every one of Sebastian’s points.
Want more playing time? Earn it.
Feeling slighted by being left standing on the sidelines of the Champions League final? Man up and enjoy your winner’s medal. (I should note that I do understand Bojan’s gripe a bit here)
With all of that said, however, I am happy for Bojan. Perhaps not for the reason that you would expect. I certainly wish him well in Italy and hope that he maximizes the opportunity that he’ll be granted. That he’s a diminutive attacker with a game stylistically similar to that of Lionel Messi should work in his favor- that is, on any team that does not already count Messi in its ranks. However, I am most happy for Bojan Krkić not for what lies ahead, but for what he’s already experienced.
Irrespective of the heights to which he is able to one day elevate his career, the feeling that accompanied every goal Bojan scored at Camp Nou, especially during his first two top-flight seasons will likely rank among the best of his life. That he’s the youngest player ever to suit up, and score, for Barcelona in La Liga is certainly impressive, but what I am talking about cannot be quantified. A local boy joining Barcelona’s youth ranks at just nine years of age, Bojan was provided the emotional climax of sparking the euphoria and basking in the unconditional love of scores of thousands of local fans, of which he was once a part. That they took place predominantly in less prioritized fixtures and competitions is irrelevant. Looking at him, looking at the crowd, the only thing that mattered was that it was happening at all, and that all involved were granted permission to savor this moment.
If his tearful goodbye- with Carles Puyol and Xavi, the emotional anchors of Barça’s recent run of greatness, in attendance- is any indication, this may not be lost on him. While he may not possess the quality to make a meaningful impact on this side, and though I certainly feel the club was justified in moving him, I find it difficult not to be happy for the teenager that I saw experience those moments.
While Bojan’s exit is certain to garner the lion’s share of the attention, it’s worth noting that he was by no means Barça’s lone departure. A quick look at a noteworthy quartet:
Gabi Milito- After four years, 10 trophies (La Liga three times, the Champions League twice, the Spanish Super Cup twice and the Copa del Rey, World Club Cup and European Super Cup once each) and a string of frustrating injuries, FC Barcelona and Gabi Milito struck a deal to release the Argentinean from his contract, which was slated to run through the end of June 2012. Milito, who recently took part in the Copa America with Argentina, took the field 75 times for Barcelona after his summer 2007 move from Zaragoza, a whopping 42 of those appearances coming in his inaugural campaign with the club.
Sadly, despite repeated attempts to regain top form, the knee injury in the 2008 Champions League semifinal against Manchester United that sidelined Milito for a year and a half also brought to a close his days as a meaningful factor on the Barcelona defense.
For a look at possible additions that could help to bolster the Barça back line, check out Arron Duckling’s piece from last Friday.
Jeffrén Suárez- Like Bojan, Jeffrén’s days at Camp Nou have drawn to a close, as the talented lefty winger (also like Bojan) has set off in search of more meaningful minutes on the pitch. He joined Barcelona’s youth program in 2004, before gaining promotion to the B side in 2006, with whom he scored 14 goals in 82 appearances. A year later he was promoted him to the first team. In five seasons, he made 35 appearances for the squad, scoring three goals- all in league play. The highlight of his Barcelona tenure came on November 29, 2010, when Jeffrén came on as a substitute el Clásico at the Camp Nou to score the final goal in a 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid.
Though he signed a contract that was due to keep him at the club through June 2012, it was announced on August 4 that Barcelona had reached an agreement with Sporting Club de Portugal (SCP) for the sale of Jeffrén Suárez. The stated price for the 23 year-old is €3.75 million, plus a €200,000 bonus. He has since signed a five-year contract with SCP, with a buy-out clause that could go as high as €30 million. Under terms of the agreement, Barcelona has the option to reacquire Jeffrén for €8million in 2012 and €12 million in 2013. Barcelona will also receive 20% of the proceeds of any future sale of the player by SCP in excess of €3.75 million.
Martín Cáceres- This may not be remembered too favorably in the annals of FC Barcelona transfer history. Cáceres joined the club in June 2008, leaving Villareal for a reported fee of €16.5 million.
Due to injury as well as coaching decisions, he made just 13 appearances for Barcelona in 2008-09. This would prove to be his lone campaign with the club. In August 2009, he was loaned to Juventus, with the Italian club having an option acquire him permanently at season’s end for ~€12 million. He scored in his league opener with the team, and look to be earning a regular spot on the side. However, he was plagued by injuries for the remainder of the season, and ultimately returned to Spain.
The following August, Cáceres was loaned out again, this time within La Liga, to Sevilla. Sadly, Cáceres’ season was once again cut short due to injury. On May 1, 2011, he suffered a lacerated kidney after a reckless challenge by Almería’s Michael Jakobsen. This time, however, his injury did not stand in the way of a permanent move for the 24 year-old Uruguayan, as on May 31, 2011, Sevilla agreed to pay €3 million, plus €1.5 million in variables, to secure his services on a permanent basis.
Oriol Romeu- On August 4 2011, Chelsea announced they’d acquired Romeu for €5 million, and subsequently signed him to a four-year contract. The deal includes buyback-clauses of €10 million after the first season and €15 million after the second.
Another native Catalan, though acquired from Espanyol’s youth academy in 2004, Romeu worked his way up the Barça ladder. After more than four years in the youth academy, he joined the reserve team, for whom the versatile (predominantly defensive) midfielder made 49 appearances, scoring one goal. He made his first senior appearances in a friendly against Kuwait team Kazma Sporting Club, and soon after in the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup, in Abu Dhabi. He made his official competitive debut for Barcelona on August 13 2010, in the first leg of the Spanish Supercup against Sevilla. He played the full 90 minutes in the 1–3 away loss. He made just one more official competitive appearance for the club, on May 15, 2011. Romeu made his first La Liga appearance, playing the last 10 minutes of a 0–0 home draw against Deportivo de La Coruña.
In lieu of rushing through the other side of the transfer ledger, I’ll be returning later in the week with a look at FC Barcelona key additions, err, addition of the summer of 2011.
Until next time…
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