Montreal Impact sign former Barcelona attacking midfielder Bojan Krkic

Bojan Krkic arrives for a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in San Joan Despi, Spain, Friday, July 18, 2014. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

MONTREAL — The Montreal Impact have signed former Barcelona attacking midfielder Bojan Krkic through the end of the 2020 season.

The Major League Soccer club said in a release Wednesday that Krkic was signed using targeted allocation money and that the contract includes the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

Montreal also announced that it has signed Impact homegrown player Ballou Tabla on loan from Barcelona’s B squad until the end of the season, and acquired the first position in the MLS allocation order from the Chicago Fire, along with defender Jorge Corrales, in exchange for midfielder Micheal Azira, a second-round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, and Montreal’s current rank in the allocation order.

Krkic (pronounced kir-KICH’), a 28-year-old native of Linyola, Spain, made his Barcelona senior debut on Sept. 16, 2007, at the age of 17 years and 19 days. He became the youngest player in Barcelona history to play in a La Liga game, surpassing the previous record held by Lionel Messi.

He recorded 26 goals in 104 appearances with Barcelona from 2007 to 2011, helping the Spanish giants to two Champions League titles. He was transferred to Italian club AS Roma for 12 million euros (C$18 million) in July 2011.

Krkic had seven goals in 33 appearances with Roma and three in 19 appearances while on loan to AC Milan.

He returned to Barcelona in 2013 following non-exercised options but was loaned to Dutch club Ajax, where he had four goals in 24 appearances, including 17 starts.

Krkic joined Premier League club Stoke City in 2014 and had 15 goals in 74 appearances with the club, which was relegated to the League Championship in 2018. While with Stoke, he spent stints on loan with Germany’s Mainz 05 and La Liga club Deportivo Alaves.

Over his career, Krkic has recorded five goals and two assists in 34 games in the Champions League, and one assist in four Europa League games.

He has made one appearance for Spain’s national team in a World Cup qualification game against Armenia in Sept. 10, 2008.

"Bojan is a very talented player who, at 28 years old, chose the Impact to pursue his career, after having played for some of the biggest clubs in the world," Impact coach Remi Garde said in a statement. "His offensive ability to get others involved in the game and to score goals will be of precious help for the final stretch of the season. I welcome him to our club."

Krkic is the second European player the Impact have acquired using targeted allocation money after acquiring Finnish midfielder Lassi Lappalainen on loan from Italian club Bologna FC last month.

Ballou played 31 games FC Barcelona B in Spain’s second division after being transferred from the Impact on Jan. 25, 2018.

He played 31 games with the Catalan club, including one with FC Barcelona U19 in the UEFA U19 Championship, scoring three goals and adding two assists.

Tabla scoring two goals and two assists in 21 games, including 11 starts, with the Impact in 2017. He became the youngest Impact player to take part in an MLS game at 17 years and 338 days on March 4, 2017, in San Jose.

Tabla first joined the Impact’s academy in 2012 before moving on to the club’s U18 side and then FC Montreal of the USL. He has two caps for Canada’s senior men’s team.

"I’m very happy to welcome Ballou to the club that saw him grow," Garde said. "The opportunity with Barcelona and his desire to return to Montreal came up very recently. No need to talk of his quality, since it’s in front of the supporters that Ballou revealed his ability. I hope he can seize this short opportunity until the end of the season to renew his career."

Corrales joined the Fire in 2018, playing 17 games, including 15 starts, in his first season. He has started 13 of the 15 games he’s played in this season.

Azira was acquired from the Colorado Rapids on the final day of the transfer window on August 8, 2018, in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft. With the Impact, he recorded one goal and one assist in 29 regular-season games, including 24 starts.

The allocation order is a mechanism allowing an MLS club to have priority in acquiring a player from the United States national team or a former player making a return to MLS after playing with a club outside of the league, following a transfer of $500,000 or more.

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