When Bojan Krkic broke Lionel Messi's record in becoming the youngest Barcelona player to make his LaLiga debut, his soccer future seemed limitless. Krkic's talent was obvious to the casual fan, but hidden beneath his potential was a crippling struggle with anxiety.
In Sid Lowe's poignant profile of Krkic in The Guardian, Krkic opens up about the anxiety that often prevented him from playing early in his career. At just 18, he had to turn down the opportunity to compete for his native Spain at the 2008 Euros.
Although the media had largely attributed his absense to a lack of desire or cryptic stomach issues, Lowe's article now sets the record straight.
In the 10 years since Krkic first sought treatment for his anxiety, the professional soccer community has developed a far greater understanding of the mental health challenges that players often face. This awareness has resulted in large part from players like Krkic sharing their struggles with the public.
Landon Donovan has been outspoken about his depression and the prevailing culture around soccer that has kept players from seeking help. Robbie Rogers, Donovan's former teammate with the LA Galaxy, chronicled his battle with depression and the challenge of opening up about his sexual orientation in his memoir "Coming Out To Play."
More recently, Burnley winger Aaron Lennon urged others to seek the help they need after having spent much of 2017 in treatment for mental health issues.
Raising awareness has been an important step in changing soccer's culture insofar as it concerns mental health. When players who are lionized come forward and open up about their struggles, it can have a far-reaching impact on other players and even fans who have similar struggles.
Lennon, Donovan, Rogers and now Krkic have all contributed to a growing chorus of mental health advocates. They've also demonstrated that it's possible to recover from mental health issues and return to doing what they love.
In Krkic's case, he's scored 73 first-division goals across five different leagues in Europe. After spending the better part of three seasons at Stoke, Krkic returned to LaLiga this year with Deportivo Alaves.