At the tender age of 17, in September 2007, he made his first appearance for Barcelona in La Liga breaking the record set by a certain Lionel Messi. Five days later, he became the youngest player to ever represent them in the Champions League.
Bojan continued this rise to prominence in his first start in La Liga in October 2007 away to Villarreal, scoring in the 25th minute and becoming the youngest goalscorer in the history of FC Barcelona. Later in the same season, in April 2008, he scored against FC Schalke 04 in the Champions League to become the first person born in the 90s to score in the competition and the second youngest player to score in Europe to date.
At the end of the 2007/08 season, Bojan finished with 10 goals in 31 La Liga games with most of them coming as substitute. He broke the record for the highest number of goals in a début season held by legendary former Real Madrid and Spain striker Gonzalez Raul.
In the subsequent three season he continued his progression at Barcelona, establishing himself as one of the best young players on the planet. However, now at the ripe old age of 20, the plethora of stars available to Josep Guardiola in the forward positions meant that he was limited to substitute appearances with limited game time. So in order to facilitate his development he was sold to AS Roma for €12 million, raising a few eyebrows to say the least.
Delve beneath the surface of the deal and one realises this is not just a two year loan with an option at the end for Roma to buy. Currently no money has been exchanged with Roma who are essentially getting the player for free and absorbing his €3.2 million a year in wages, comparable to new signing Alexis Sanchez who is earning €3.5 million annually.
At the end of the 2011-12 season, Barcelona may buy back the player for €17 million, which is simple enough, but it is in two years time when the contract is mandated into a series of transactions.
Roma in summer 2013 is obligated to buy Bojan for €12 million, with Barca then obligated to buy Bojan back from Roma for €13 million (i.e. provided of course Barca have not already bought him in 2012 for the €17 million as aforementioned). Then Roma has an option to buy Bojan for €28 million basically amounting to a total amount of €27 million i.e. (28M Roma + 12M Roma -13M Barca).
Last but not the least, the transfer stipulates Bojan's wages for the four year deal at Roma, €3.2 million for the first two years and €6.3 million plus performance-related bonuses for the last two years.
Why make this deal so intricate when in all probability it does not make sense for Roma to purchase the player for the net €27 million and pay €6.3 million for two seasons—and to risk losing the player on a Bosman free transfer if he refuses to sign a new contract in 2014? Practically the deal is set up in a way that it makes it highly improbable that Roma will sign him outright in 2013.
Who does this transfer benefit most?
Say for instance Roma choose to sign the player for €27 million—critically, why are the terms of the deal structured in a way that Roma first pay €12 million, then Barca buy him back for €13 million, and then Roma buy him for €28 million?
Interestingly the reason for this is by stipulating Roma to buy him for €12 million and then obligating Barca to buy him back for €13 million (rather than just exchange the net €1 million, which would, at face value, be much easier) is that it establishes and sets the marker for Bojan's value in the 2013 transfer market.
Barcelona can then assess his progression, see how he fits into the team at the time and set a minimum price for the player with a huge chance of maximising it in the market, with one complex but highly sensible move aimed at minimising any risks.
So how does the deal benefit Roma? Well, they are getting a top-class young player essentially for free in the two-year period and may even profit if Barca buy him in summer 2012. Barcelona are taking a risk in that sense because if the player is to get badly injured, the potential profit on their prized La Masia youth investment would diminish.
To conclude, this deal is momentous in terms of the evolution of transfer activity, especially for the major clubs with abundant youth talent. It sets a future precedent in that this simultaneously meets the mutual business and sporting requirements of all the parties concerned, whilst minimising the negatives.