The Stoke forward admits that he struggled to handle the weight of expectation during his time at Barcelona.

THERE HAVE BEEN numerous players billed as ‘the new Lionel Messi’ down the years, with former Barcelona star Bojan Krkic admitting that he struggled under the pressure of that tag.

Having followed the mercurial Argentine out of the famed La Masia academy system in Catalunya, big things were expected of the exciting frontman.

Bojan did net 12 times during a breakthrough campaign in 2007-08, and reached double figures in each of his first three seasons as a senior star.

He was, however, unable to scale the heights of his illustrious former colleague and concedes that the expectation around him at a young age proved too much.

Bojan, who is now on the books at Stoke, told BBC Sport: “You need to control the things you can do.

“You can do nothing about this. In the end, I know my qualities and I know I’m not Messi. I’m Bojan. If people say ‘this guy was not the new Messi,’ yeah I was not the new Messi.”

Bojan added of a moniker which followed him to Italy after leaving Barca for Roma: “It’s not easy.

“Messi scores three goals every game. If you score one goal, you’re not Messi. When I went to Rome and Milan, you go there not as Bojan, you go as a new star, a new Messi.

“So if you go there and play good, it’s not enough. You need to be the best, you need to be the Messi. That’s the thing that didn’t help me.

“At the beginning it’s difficult to understand but with experience you know what you can do.”

Bojan did win three La Liga titles, two Champions League crowns and the Club World Cup during his time at Barca and made over 160 appearances for the club.

He did, however, slip slowly down the pecking order under Pep Guardiola and was eventually left with little choice but to move on.

“When I made the decision, I went with my head, not my heart. My heart said ‘here is your home, it’s your place’.

“You don’t know that after Barcelona there is a really nice world. I opened the door to say ‘thank you and I’m going to do my own way’.

“When you open and see the many things waiting for you, at the start you’re scared. A different shirt, fans, culture and mentality. But when you make this decision, the first step, then you feel really proud.”

Bojan has struggled to find a spark since leaving Camp Nou, with spells at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax followed by a switch to Stoke in 2014.

He spent the second half of the 2016-17 campaign out on loan at Mainz and last season back in Spain with Alaves.

Stoke have, however, welcomed him back onto their books this season, with a man once tipped for the very top now turning out in the Championship and hoping to steer a course back to the Premier League.

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