Alen Halilovic 20 Midfielder Hamburger SV Croatia
The Croatian Messi. The next big thing. The future of world football. The physical embodiment of deity as sporting icon. The indelible gauntlet of retribution. Alen, to his mates.
First let’s be very clear, Alen Halilović is an exceptionally gifted and capable young footballer. While the various monikers attributed to him over the last few years have been particularly misleading, and certainly not helpful, this kid has ability.
Singled out as the heir apparent to a certain global icon pretty much since he was little more than a cluster of chromosomes, Alen Halilović has had an interesting twelve months to say the least.
The much heralded 17-year old arrived in Catalonia in 2014, already an established full international for Croatia having finished the season strongly with Dinamo, picking up a league winners medal for his troubles. Invariably, the jump straight into the first XI at the Camp Nou would be a step too far for the immediate future, but the opportunity to become entrenched in the set up at Barcelona would be channelled via the host club’s B team in Spain’s second tier.
At this point things should have been just about perfect. Halilović arrived in Barcelona in great form and the team he was due to turn out for had just equalled their highest ever league position. But the 2014/15 season for Barcelona B would turn out to be a stark contrast to the previous campaign. While a number of Barca’s young hopefuls remained, including Jean Marie Dongou, Patric and Sergi Samper, the intensity of the division proved an unsurmountable problem for Eusebio Sacristán’s young charges with the experienced coach jettisoned in February last year. Despite making 29 appearances over the season, Halilović tasted victory only five times as his side were relegated.
2016 has been…
The 2015-16 offered Halilović a promotion of sorts with a one year loan to Sporting Gijon and an opportunity to play a full season in the top flight ahead of Euro 2016. An impressive start to the season for the youngster helped his team to important victories at Deportivo La Coruna and Espanyol, and a single strike was enough to earn Halilović’s side three points against Malaga in the autumn of 2015.
The remainder of the season was a struggle for Gijon, but Halilović frequently contributed and was rarely found wanting. Despite visibly tiring toward the end of the season, the Croatian youngster made his mark and helped his team avoid relegation.
A popular player at El Molinón, Halilović had been tipped for a second full season in Asturias to continue his development, but in a surprise move this summer, Halilović was sold to Hamburger SV for €5m and things have turned sour very quickly. One of several new players through the door at the Imtech Arena, Halilović has resembled a rabbit caught in the headlights as Die Rothosen have imploded spectacularly since the start of the season.
It’s incredibly difficult to imagine what happens next. Despite the talk of a buy back clause, Halilović doesn’t appear to have done anything like enough to convince he can make it at Barcelona and his current malaise may be as much down to a clever player finding himself out of his depth too soon in his career, not to mention being badly advised. Hopefully things will improve, and Halilović has plenty of time to put things right but any kid that sees a move to Europe’s elite as a guarantee of success will do well to reflect on the last few years for a talented kid from Croatia.
D It’s all going horribly wrong
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