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Bojan, Canales suggest La Liga no longer a teenage wasteland
Lionel Messi hogged most of the headlines thanks to his wonderful hat-trick at Tenerife, but it was the performances of a pair of teenagers who had pundits, coaches and team mates purring following the weekend’s La Liga action.
Barcelona’s Spanish forward Bojan Krkic has been around for a while –- he made his first-team debut in a friendly in Egypt in 2007 -– but all three of Messi’s goals came from passes supplied by the 19-year-old and coach Pep Guardiola was effusive in his praise.
“He constantly demonstrates his quality, but the problem is his coach doesn’t let him play very much,” Guardiola joked at a news conference.
“He didn’t manage to score (against Tenerife) but he has to see that the team doesn’t just survive on goals but on assists too.”
Racing Santander midfielder Sergio Canales is a newer phenomenon.
The 18-year-old had already earned himself the nickname “Peter Pan” with some polished performances that belied his relative youth.
But two outstanding goals in a 2-1 win at Sevilla on Saturday, in which he made experienced goalkeeper Andres Palop look rather foolish, have put him firmly in the spotlight as one of La Liga’s hottest young talents.
He was applauded by both sets of fans when substituted in the second half and the Spanish sports press even rolled out comparisons with Diego Maradona.
“He’s a monster,” Racing defender Pablo Pinillos said. “Although he has zero responsibility, he still has an incredibly cool head,” added forward Pedro Munitis.
There is no real prospect of Bojan leaving Barca, where he has already spent 10 years, but Santander-born Canales is out of contract at the end of the season and is being linked in the Spanish media with interest from big clubs at home and abroad (with Real Madrid the favourites to sign him, according to Marca and As today).
In the past, players tended to make an impact in La Liga at a much later age and Spanish clubs used to gaze enviously at thriving teenage superstars in rival European leagues.
The success of players like Bojan, Canales and Athletic Bilbao’s Iker Muniain, who became Spain’s youngest top-flight scorer at the age of 16 in October, suggests that trend is changing.
PHOTO: Racing Santander’s Sergio Canales (L) celebrates next to Sevilla’s goalkeeper Andres Palop after scoring during their Spanish First Division soccer match at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville January 9, 2010. REUTERS/Marcelo del Pozo