I’m not a huge bluegrass guy, so you’ll have to make do with that above, which features Steve Martin, who, by the way, can freakin’ play. I hate how he stole all the talent in the world. What a jerk. Get it? Anyway, that’s what I know about banjos other than the dueling version.
And, of course, the Crickets kind that we have coming out of our cantera. But what of him? What of his performances of late? Is there hope in the land of Serb-Catalan mini-men? Will our little bluegrass music maker grow big and strong or devolve into the cule Emperor of Lilliput? Low-heels only, folks! These questions are something most of readers on this site and all of the writers here have continually asked themselves for a while now.
For my part, I’ve put Bojan in the star-to-be category because he is 19 years old and full of promise. I’m not sure anyone is denying that he has talent or potential, but a lot of people are saying he needs to go somewhere else to develop. I do not understand why this is. He holds down a roster spot, yes, but he plays in the Copa and occasionally in the league, which I do not begrudge him because of the aforementioned talent and potential. What’s unfortunate is that his past includes being called up at the age of 16 to ensure that he stayed at the club for the foreseeable future. It’s not unfortunate that he’s staying, of course, but rather that at such a young age he was put under such immense pressure. I believe that that pressure is stunting his growth in a lot of ways or at the very least putting his natural development on show for everyone.
Many commenters here and around other parts of the internet have compared Bojan to Pedro! and ask why it is that P! can score in so many competitions, but Bojan cannot find regular playing time. There are several ways to think of this, but from my perspective the most important one is age. Pedro is 3 years and 1 month older than Bojan, which means 3 years and 1 month more development. To expect a 19-year old to play at the same level as a 22-year old is, in my opinion, ridiculous. When I was 19 I was beginning to understand the finer details of both Carlo Rossi and the fairer sex, not performing acts of magic in front of 98,000 screaming fans and millions more on TV.* Jeffren, in case you were wondering, is 21 for 13 more days (his birthday is January 20).
When I watch Bojan play, I feel like I can physically make out the lessons he is picking up from his Barça teammates. He has the stutter step of Henry, the inside move of Leo Messi, and the bull-in-a-china-shop obtuseness of Samuel Eto’o. There’s even the occasional flash of the buck-toothed one in there. He is like a sponge–perhaps a tiny one, but one nonetheless–that soaks up everything around it. I see him as being in that in-between stage, where he is struggling to fit the pieces together. At some point they’re going to click into place and we will have a magnificent striker with a veteran head on his shoulders at an early age. That, I think, is what Guardiola sees in him.
Part of that is getting his head around his own emotions, which are those of, just to grab a random age out of the bag, a 19-year old. Yes, he’s an adult now and if he reads this he’ll probably 1) think I’m insane for calling him Banjo and 2) consider me a jerk for not respecting his age, much as I did when I was that age and others told me to grow up. I am grown up! I’m 19! I’m not so removed from that age–only 7 years–that I don’t remember what it was like, but I’m not so naive to think that in 7 years Bojan won’t be a more mature player.
Now don’t get me wrong, he will never be a world beater in the Messi or Ibra sense or the Henry-in-his-prime sense, but he will have enough tools to be a solid member of the squad for years. And until he’s 21 or 22, I see no reason to do anything other than support his Copa appearances and the occasional sub in the league. He’ll develop rapidly enough and pushing him to do so will only make him force the issue on the field and screw up more. Perhaps I’m wrong and perhaps he’ll never be the player I think he can be, but I withhold judgment on him until he has developed more.
Iniesta made his debut with the senior team at the age of 18, but didn’t make inroads on the starting 11 until 20. Xavi was a regular contributor at 18, but only became a permanent fixture at 21. Puyol made his debut at the age of 21. Thierry Henry made his debut at 17, but didn’t become a regular 10+ yearly goalscorer until he was 22 and playing for Arsenal. In fact, his track record at Monaco was worse than Bojan’s (141 apps 28 goals compared to Krkic’s 106apps 26 goals already for Barcelona). Give Bojan time.
*At 22 I was learning more about Rossi and trying to forget the details of several members of the fairer sex, but that’s hardly my point.