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2007: Bojan Krkić

Bojan Krkić was a star aged 15 at the 2006 UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals and a year later inspired Spain to victory in Belgium.

Bojan Krkić with the trophy in 2007
Bojan Krkić with the trophy in 2007 ©Sportsfile

Bojan Krkić was still around four months from turning 16 when the 2006 UEFA European Under-17 Championship finals began – but even before he had kicked a ball, the hype had begun.

The son of a FK Crvena Zvezda player and a Catalan mother, Bojan had struck close to 900 goals in seven youth seasons at FC Barcelona, and was promoted to the Spain squad for the 2006 finals in Luxembourg after qualifying. Spain coach Juan Santisteban opted to leave Bojan on the bench for the first half of their opener against Luxembourg, but once he arrived with his team already 3-0 up, the 15-year-old turned on the style and struck a hat-trick in a final tournament record 7-1 win. Two days later against Russia, who would go on to win the tournament, Bojan was again brought on at half-time, this time with the game goalless. So the Barcelona youngster got to work, and made two of Spain's three goals as they eased to victory. It was a similar story against Hungary, as Spain secured a semi-final place with a 2-0 triumph, sealed by Bojan – again a replacement – converting a late penalty he had won himself.

Bojan started the semi-final against the Czech Republic, but his team did not perform and lost 2-0. But in the third-place play-off Bojan reverted to his second-half role, and pounced on a swiftly-taken free-kick to gain a fifth goal that made him joint-top scorer in the finals with Germany's Manuel Fischer and Tomáš Necid of the Czech Republic. To top that off, Bojan converted what proved the winning penalty in the bronze-medal shoot-out and he continued to develop, scoring for Europe Under-18s against Africa in the 2007 UEFA-CAF Meridian Cup first leg as a substitute and impressing for the senior Barcelona team on a tour of Egypt just before the U17 finals, in which Bojan had regisered in qualifying.

He began the finals slowly and seemed tired as Spain eased into the group stage. But in the semis against Belgium, with the hosts 1-0 up, Bojan scored from distance with nine minutes left and converted in a 7-6 shoot-out epic. As if that was not enough, he struck the only goal of a tight final against England to secure the title for Spain. "I've never seen such quality and imagination in a player," Santisteban once said. No one watched Bojan bloom in the Barcelona first team would strongly disagree, nor AS Roma who paid €12m for him in July 2011.