From NEW MESSI to FAILED WONDERKID and a return to his homeland

From NEW MESSI to FAILED WONDERKID and a return to his homeland

He was one of the best prospects of this time, but he failed to put all that talent to work and now starts over his career

Por: Fernando RomeroViernes 22 Jul 2022

  In 2014, FC Barcelona sealed the signing of a 17-year-old Croatian player; left-footed and with long hair, the link with Lionel Messi was done almost immediately. It seemed that the Catalan giants had laid their hands on the next big thing, and promise was immense. But he only remained in that, a promise; the young man was Alen Halilovic.

Alen Halilovic had the quality to triumph in Barcelona, but perhaps the weight of the expectations were too much

Alen Halilovic had the quality to triumph in Barcelona, but perhaps the weight of the expectations were too much

The career of the "Messi of the Balkans" started in Dinamo Zagreb. From the very beginning, he wore with galantry the weight of that nickname and constant comparison with Luka Modric. When he arrived at the Blaugrana team, it looked like it would not be long before we could see the young promise playing one-twos and scoring goals with the best players of the moment.

Unfortunately for him, this did not happen. Halilovic played more with Barcelona B than with the first team. He only featured on the Copa del Rey and the expectations surrounding his arrival were far from being met. The lack of opportunities kept him away from Messi's team and he left for more play time; he'd join a recently promoted Sporting Gijón, a long drop from the heights of Barcelona.

The Croatian had a good stint at Sporting Gijón, but his career little by little was taking him away from the initial promise that brought him to Barcelona. Still as one of the top prospects in the world, Halilovic arrived on a permanent transfer to Bundesliga's Hamburg for 5 million euros, but after a goal in his debut, his performances started to drop.

Lacking minutes at Germany, he returned to Spain to play on loan in Las Palmas. History repeated itself once again, and a serious injury prevented the purchase option from being executed. Halilovic returned to Germany having played little football, and it was a surprise when a team like AC Milan knocked on his door. However, the 2018-19 season was one of the Rossoneri's worst and, incredibly, Halilovic did not play a single minute.

At this point what was clear is that the "Messi of the Balkans" was becoming a wanderer with no luck and no minutes on the field. From January 2019 onwards, he was loaned out first to Standard de Liège in Belgium and then to SC Heerenveen in the Netherlands, always disappointing until he was finally released by AC Milan.

Alen Halilovic struggled to make his mark at Hamburg

Alen Halilovic struggled to make his mark at Hamburg

In the midst of the pandemic, the Croatian landed in English football, to wear the colours of first of Birmingham City and then Reading, but took part in just 29 games between the two stints. The hope for a resurgence from Alen Halilovic is still intact; he is still just 26 years old and at the beginning of July he arrived at HNK Rijeka from his native Croatia to gain the long-awaited playing minutes. His hope undoubtedly will be  to use this platform to take off towards Europe's elite as he did all the way back in 2014.

Continue reading: PLAN B: Barça working on ALTERNATIVE to the Koundé deal


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