Sam MarsdenBarcelona reporterRead 8 minutes
It’s been a few years since the record was broken. BarcelonaYoung players. He came first Ansu Fatiand then Pedri And soon Gavi And Alejandro Balde. 15 years old last month It hurts Lamin He became the youngest player to play for the club. La Liga When he came down from the bench Real Betis.
There is something interesting about the availability and promise of early talent, and naturally, comparisons are drawn and predictions are made. If they exist This How many Ballon d’Ors will they win at the age of 16 when they turn 25? Even fairy tale Lionel Messi He did not make his Barça debut at the age of 15.
Headlines will follow, social media followers will rise and more contracts will soon follow. It is one side of the coin. On the other hand, there is a lot of pressure on youngsters who are still new to the world, not ready for the quick results that the industry often prioritizes, let alone the world of football.
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None of this is new, but it should be cause for reflection.
Bojan Krkic, who recently retired at the age of 32, was in the same position not long after these players. Krkic emerged in 2007, making his debut at the age of 17, when the young Messi was already a fixture in Barca’s first team. He managed to score 12 goals in his first campaign with the club and scored 1 goal in the Champions League.
However, while everyone was impressed with the quality, Krkic was overwhelmed by his newfound fame. At the end of his first season, he turned down a call to be part of the Spanish national team. European Championship In the year In 2008 – competition the red After entering the position, he goes on to win because of his stress.
Following his playing career for Roma, Milan, Ajax, Stoke City, Mainz, Alaves, Montreal Impact and Vissel Kobe, few better than Krkic to pass on their experiences to Barca’s next generation. In fact, sources have told ESPN that he could return to the Catalan club in a role that would see him serve as a link between the reserve team, the academy and the first team.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month 2023, the former Barcelona forward spoke to ESPN about the side of the game you don’t see on television, the struggles he faced during the season and the reasons the player chose to train professionally. Football or not.
(Interview conducted by Ricardo Puig and slightly edited for clarity of content.
ESPN: Can you identify what Pedri, Gavi and Ansu are experiencing with Barca’s young players?
Crick: I can also identify players who made their debut at a young age. After that, each player has his own way and situation. All are different, regardless of age or situation with the club.
Each person has his own situation and condition; Clearly, they are all showing that they have the level needed to play in the Barcelona first team.
Is there too much pressure on the younger players? The same thing happened to you when you were called ‘the new messiah’.
Everyone is free to put that pressure on someone else. It has been done and will continue. You must know that he is very young when he plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world, Barcelona. The standard is to be good, to play, to win, and that’s what he stands for.
The exterior has nothing to do with the player or the young man going through these emotions. The ones responsible are how to handle this external pressure, how to equip them to understand the moment of growth they are in, to understand that all the labels placed on them do not correspond to what they think of themselves. That is in terms of the player and the player’s inner circle, in terms of how they feel in this situation.
You had anxiety problems early in your career. Do you think this has anything to do with professional football?
I went from being a public figure to being a public figure in a very short period of time. It was a very important change in my identity that affected me and my surroundings. I always say I’m professionally prepared, I’ve actually proven it, but the results that come from playing at a high level and representing a team like Barcelona is not a lesson. It’s something you learn along the way in life and that’s what happened to me.
It was like entering a new world, very suddenly, and a total identity change. You need to understand what is going on and accept that this is your new reality. And you have to keep improving and improving. And that’s what I did.
Before you scored your first Champions League goal, before you made your debut against Barca, did you ever have problems with anxiety?
Not really: it was new to me. That’s why I say it’s not a learned thing or you can warn anyone. They are growing conditions, concrete conditions that are part of human nature.
It’s the same with a muscle injury. When you get it for the first time, the feeling is new, unpleasant and you learn to recover. Well, it’s the same. You have to accept that damage. You should know that you have a recovery process ahead of you. This is what I did, as a challenge. I faced it, I faced it and I overcame it.
Have the comparisons with Messi and the expectations that are building in your second season add to your anxiety?
No, the anxiety issues were a definite issue in my first season, towards the middle and towards the end. I felt really good in the second season. Thank God I used those experiences to get to the point where I played my entire career and those parts were greatly reduced and allowed me to continue living my dream of playing football at a professional level.
In the year This is not why you refused in 2008 Spain Coach Luis Aragones playing in the European Championship?
Yes, yes, it was at the end of the first season. At the end of that season, just as the Euros were about to leave, I arrived with an empty tank and couldn’t get going. After that I focused on recovering well and came back ready to go at the start of the second season.
Do professional clubs work on these practices? Do you think clubs are ready to help the player in this way?
There is no time with clubs because each has its own pressure and obligation to win. That’s partly because of what I went through, you can handle it as a team and it strengthens the team. I think it is up to the player himself to make the decision to be as prepared as possible on an individual level and take the initiative to deal with all these uncertainties.
Can you do it in the club with someone trained to help? Yes, it’s obvious, but there really isn’t much to it. There are many physical therapists who can help you with injuries. In these other situations, there is no understanding that I think it can be beneficial not only for the club but also for the coach because he is not well known.
Ansu has had problems since coming back from injury, Gavi has looked burnt out on the pitch at times, do you think it has to do with pressure or mental health? The pressure of Pedri, for example, do fans say Barca will lose in his absence?
If this is the case, then there is reason to talk about it. Ansu proved to be a very good and good player; Like Gavi and Pedri. And that’s what I’m talking about. What happens outside is not their responsibility.
Ansu is going through something he did nothing about. The young man who suffered a major injury took advice from the club and in turn decided on the best way to rehabilitate his knee. He did his best in the end. We are talking about significant trauma at a very young age. It’s all part of the process.
It’s the same with Gavi, and everything around his situation. It’s his understanding of the game, his style of playing, and whatever happens on the outside shouldn’t affect him.
I would like to think that they are players who are more than ready and can continue to be important players at Barca. Logically, they are still in the early stages and should follow this path for many more years.
Does this fascination with finding the ‘new Messi’ put too much pressure on young players?
Yes, but I think it is always the same and always the same. It is a reflection of society. We want everything in time, and we don’t value what we have, and we don’t value ourselves. Sometimes we value the person next to us more and sometimes it takes away the satisfaction we could get if we felt and noticed what each of us has.
Having said that, I don’t really understand the need to look for that “new Messi” or that “new Ronaldinho” before Messi. Because eventually each of us is missing out on what this player could be, which has nothing to do with the other and that’s the beauty of it.
What do you have next? Perhaps working with young players?
Some of them are sharing my experience from my career as a footballer. From long ago to the second chapter, there are not many written words yet. What I want to do is keep writing them, keep all your feelings. In fact, seeing all the concerns that can come up where I can find a place where I can fully understand them is satisfying on both a personal and professional level.
I am not fixed in any place; It is wrong to do that. Obviously, Barcelona is a big organisation, it’s all but my second home, and I’m proud to be a member of the club at a level that suits my situation. But my focus is not just on one place. Many situations may come into play where I can write my next chapter.