The earnest question of whether Lionel Messi could do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke has persisted as a cliched joke for a few years now. So when Barcelona surprisingly sold Bojan, a 24-year-old once hyped as the next Messi, to Stoke City, the only explanation was that Messi personally asked him to go there on an expedition to see if the conditions in this mythical place are as challenging as the fables suggest. This is Bojan’s fifth letter back to his friend.
Please hold your favorite Lego set tight for comfort, because I am writing to you with news that I hoped I would never have to report. We feared this day would come from the start and now it has happened. In the first half of a match on Monday, I suffered a knee injury. The doctor told me that I will miss the rest of the season. Mr. Hughes, Stoke City’s manager, said he also looked at the scans and disputed this, giving me a brief moment of hope. But it turned out he was actually looking at a map of Greenland. I’m still not sure why he had that.
The timing of this couldn’t have been worse, Leo. You must believe me when I tell you that I was so close to completing my mission. We were in a village called Rochdale playing a lower division club in the FA Magic Cup. It was darker than the heart of Pepe and cold, but not frigid (which reminds me — did we ever determine a temperature threshold for this task?). It was also comfortingly dry. And in just the fourth minute, I scored with a volley that would have made you so proud.
This was my second goal in as many matches — the previous one gave us a 1–0 win at Leicester in the Premier League — and I celebrated by running with my arms hold out wide, feeling the crisp breeze against my face. I was filled with confidence and prepared to forge ahead in my quest. Then, about 30 minutes later, it happened.
When the rest of the team came back to the dressing room for halftime, I asked The Crouchie if he could use his enchanted broomstick limbs to heal my knee. This was, after all, the FA Magic Cup — where anything is possible and potent spells had already vanquished the dark forces of Jose Mourinho. But The Crouchie said he couldn’t do that. I am starting to think that he is just an unusually tall person and not a collection of inanimate cleaning tools fused together by wizardry.
So this is the end. For now. But I came so, so close to achieving the impossible and doing it on a cold, wet night in Stoke. Just 60 miles, a bit of precipitation and perhaps several degrees away from completing my mission. I feel I have let you down, Leo. And for that I am sorry.
We knew the chances of suffering bodily harm while playing for Stoke were extremely high, but, to be honest, I just never thought it would happen this way. I was certain that Charlie Adam would run me over with the team bus and drag me halfway across the country while laughing at my cries for help before I ever got this close. I take solace from that and I promise you, Leo, that I will come back stronger, wiser, and better prepared.
I have realized that this task is even more difficult than we imagined, but I will not back down. For now, our dream is shattered. But I have already purchased some dream glue (it’s just regular glue that I’m pretending is also for dreams) and I will put it back together while the doctors fix my knee. And next season I will continue my mission for you, and me, and everyone else who has ever been told that there is something they can’t do. This isn’t the end. It’s only another challenge on the path to the ultimate glory.
Yours in bravery,
Previously in Letters from Bojan: A taste of glory