Bojan sensation sweeps the nation

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Teen prodigy could become youngest national debutee against France tonight

6 February 2008

MADRID - The 17-year old Serbo-Spanish soccer sensation Bojan Krkic has not stopped making headlines in Spain's sports pages since his on-field debut for Barcelona on 24 April 2007 in a friendly match against Egypt's Al-Ahly, where he scored the team's second goal.

In fact, the youngster who bulldozed records in his seven seasons playing in Barcelona's junior divisions - racking up more than 800 goals - has been doing the same in his first official season playing for its A-side. On 20 October 2007, against Villarreal, Bojan became the youngest player in the club's history to score a goal in the league (17 years, 51 days). Against Stuttgart, in December, he missed by a hair becoming the youngest scorer in the Champions League. "It's a pity because I could have gone down in history," he admitted; "but it's not important because I'm living a dream right now."

And last week, the striker received the call-up from Spanish trainer Luis Aragonés to join the national team for its friendly match against France tonight, where, if he sees the field, will make him the youngest player to ever represent Spain, coming in around four months younger than Athletic Bilbao's Ángel Zubieta when he debuted in 1936.

But even Bojan admits that becoming a Spain international was beyond his expectations. "A few months ago, nobody thought I was going to play the amount of minutes that [Frank] Rijkaard has been giving me at Barcelona, and now I've been called up for the big one..."

The modest youngster has even been able to swallow the fact that his inclusion in the list may have been to prevent him being poached by Serbia. "If it's because of that, they can relax. Spain has given me a lot and has also treated me very well. I never planned on playing for Serbia."

Being in the soccer limelight is not new for the youngster born of a Serbian father and Catalan mother. His father, also named Bojan Krkic, came to the second-division Spanish team Mollerussa in the 1988-1989 season after having played in Yugoslavia's professional soccer league and for the country's national team. While living in Lleida, the elder Bojan met and married Maria Lluïsa Pérez and had Bojan just over a year later. Finding his niche, the boy's father later went on to become a talent scout for Barcelona soccer club, a job which became the perfect inroad for the young Bojan, who showed promise at an early age.

With his talent cultivated according to Amsterdam's Ajax school, Bojan has spent much of his career pegged against higher levels of physical and mental competition in order to build toughness and cultivate growth. Now, at only 17 and in his first year of first-division play for one of Europe's leading teams, he has been offered the opportunity to fight to represent Spain in the upcoming European Championship.

"Everything's going so fast. The truth is for me, being on the bench at Barcelona is a prize, seeing the field for a few minutes is a gift."

Because Bojan is currently battling a stomach bug, Aragonés tonight will have to decide whether or not to play him without having seen him practice. The coach, however, seems unworried: "We know what he can do from his play with the junior national teams. He's a kid with an extraordinary future, and we are going to try to help him make it."

Another issue did cause the coach to bristle, however. The team was greeted yesterday at Málaga train station by 500 fans screaming "Raúl, Raúl," the name of the veteran Real Madrid striker who Aragonés has refused to reinstate to the team, despite being harassed by fans sympathetic to the player.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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