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 eighth letter back to his friend.
Happy New Year and thank you for the Christmas gift you sent. This tiny BB8 is my new best friend. I have named him C3-Pique. I hope you liked the Lego sets I sent you (I also hope you did not have them already!).
I am not writing to you to discuss Christmas gifts and well wishes, though. I have been informed of your comments about Stoke and felt the need to warn you as soon as I could free myself from the headlock Charlie Adam puts me in when I do not laugh at his terrible jokes.
Guillem Balague said that you told him the people who doubt you could do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke “should realize I played in awful conditions in Rosario when I was 11 years old, with glass on the pitch, with holes and everything.” Though I believe you could do it here, and I said as much, I must tell you that the glass covered crater pitches of your childhood home simply cannot compare to the Britannia Stadium.
I’m sure you will doubt that assertion, but there is an undeniable and strange devilry at work here that I still cannot fully explain. The big clubs that come to Stoke are powerless against it. Soon after the last time I wrote to you, Chelsea lost at the Britannia for the second time in as many weeks and Jose Mourinho the Wicked was banished to the Island of Misfit Managers soon afterwards and no one has heard from him since. He won the Premier League title just last season, Leo! This is what Stoke does to people.
In December, Manchester City came here and we beat them too. Yaya Toure and Kun Aguero were too afraid to even step onto the pitch that day. Then, most recently, we held Arsenal to a scoreless draw while our fans taunted them with songs about the time Aaron Ramsey’s leg broke here when the merciless grass forced it against Ryan Shawcross’ boot. Did they do that in Rosario, Leo? I doubt it. They probably didn’t even know who Aaron Ramsey was back then.
The dark powers of Stoke have cast a shadow over the entire Premier League Kingdom, turning everything upside down and inside out. Chelsea are in the bottom half. Leicester and Arsenal are taking turns in first place. Manchester United play like Snow White after eating the poison apple and a Liverpool mascot called Joe Allen has shape shifted into Andrea Pirlo. It is all very strange and very scary. I don’t know what I would do without my new C3-Pique or the comfort I get from seeing The Crouchie cheering me on from the bench with his enchanted broomstick limbs.
I’m not sure what frigid and damp midweek challenges Stoke will throw at us next, but I will continue to put myself through them for you, Leo. If I don’t make it, please watch out for yourself and stay as far away from here as you possibly can. I wouldn’t want the potent air of Stoke to be filled with jovial songs about your severed limbs one day.
Yours in bravery,
Previously in Letters from Bojan: A glimpse of darkness