The earnest question of whether Lionel Messi could do it on a cold, wet night in Stoke has persisted as cliched joke for a few years now. So when Barcelona surprisingly sold Bojan, a 23-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 second letter back to his friend.
The season has begun. Our first match was on a Saturday afternoon. I expected the skies to turn dark and angry and rain to soak through the pitch like sweat under Carles Puyol's hair flaps as soon as the first kick was made, but it was warm and dry. I cannot lie to you, though...I was still very nervous. I assume the mild weather is just a trick of English football to make foreign players believe they are in a safe place before revealing the true horrors once it's too late. So I remain fearful.
Our opponents were called Aston Villa. I believe they represent the remnants of a once great empire. They seem proud, but also sad. Before the match, the club's American owner asked if I knew anyone in Spain who might be interested in buying his team. I said I would ask for him the next time I return. He cried and thanked me. I hugged him and said everything would be fine, even though I felt in my heart that it wouldn't. That's when I saw that one of their coaches was a werewolf — like the ones in books we have back home.
The wolf-man squinted to focus on potential prey and the silver fur around his mouth made his bellowing roars that much more ferocious. When he looked at me, a shiver went up my spine and I wanted to hide behind The Crouchie, but I didn't. You would have been proud of me, Leo.
The manager sat next to the wolf-man like it was perfectly normal. I guess even werewolves must have friends.
Once the match began, my nervousness melted away. I beat a defender and took a shot early on and after that I completely stopped thinking about the wolf-man and the crying American (for a bit, at least). We fell behind in the second half, but I was hopeful that The Crouchie's enchanted broomstick limbs could provide us with the magic we needed when he came off the bench. He didn't, though. Maybe Princess Abbey needs to cast a new spell on him to make him score more goals. I will also wish upon a star for him to score just in case he is like Pinocchio.
Back in the dressing room, Mr. Hughes asked me if I thought Pep Guardiola would have done anything differently. Before I could answer, he said "probably not" and that he would just ask Pep himself the next time they talk to each other, which he assured me is very often. He also asked whether I knew if Pep was on Facebook. I said I wasn't sure. Mr. Hughes laughed in a strange way and said I did a good job, but there was much to improve on, which reminded me of all the dangers that lie ahead. I am ready for the challenge.
Yours in bravery,
Previously in Letters from Bojan: Arriving in the mythical land of Stoke
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