The Croatian teenage sensation raised a couple of eyebrows upon his arrival to the Spanish giants Barcelona as an unknown youngster.
Dubbed the new Messi in his homeland, the 19-year-old Alen Halilovic has been dealing with a heavy burden at his delicate age and the pressure-filled tag of being compared to one of the greatest ever was sure to be a load.
However, Halilovic is coping well.
He did have some problems in his early days at Barcelona.
Playing for the B team, Alen Halilovic was unhappy with his last year’s situation, having expected to be given more room to showcase his potential. The former Dinamo Zagreb star’s dissatisfaction had culminated in the Barca B’s 3-1 defeat against Alcoron in 2014.
Manager Jordi Vinyalas decided to take Halilovic off after only 27 minutes of the game, but he didn’t choose to sub his super-talented star because he was injured or because he was playing poorly. He did it because goalkeeper Ortola had been sent off and Suarez needed to come on to replace him.
Halilovic did little to hide his feelings as he approached the touchline. His teammates tried to calm him down, so did the Vinyalas, but the 19-year-old was undeterred in display in his disgust over the manager’s decision.
Halilovic did a similar thing earlier against Zaragoza, and he was heavily criticized for his general lack of respect towards the technical staff. There have even been doubts over his future in the Catalan club, but Alen Halilovic has been a different man recently.
Shipped out to Sporting Gijon, Alen Halilovic was given the much needed opportunity. The Croatian teen wonder is using his chance well, and Gijon has turned out to be the right choice and a smart move, despite the interest from West Ham or Hamburg which were even tempting surroundings.
Sporting Gijon is the perfect place for his development.
Luis Enrique was born in Gijon, he keeps close connection to the club from his home town and Alen Halilovic is constantly under his nose. Sporting Gijon boast one on the youngest squads in La Liga, Alen Halilovic himself recognized the occasion and was not to miss it.
“I spoke to Luis Enrique and he said Gijon was a nice place and Sporting were good team, a young team. I spoke to my parents and the agreed. It was the best place”, Halilovic told the Spanish media.
Alen Halilovic moved to Sporting hoping to become a member of the first team, but managed to do a lot more. The talented teenager became instrumental in team’s efforts this season, with his influence exceeding his tender age.
Barca starlet has played nine matches so far in La Liga, scoring twice and contributing with three assists.
Most plays run through him and Alen Halilovic has become a game-changer. His aggressive dribble, his cut-ins, his overwhelming talent and technique have made him one of the hottest properties in the Spanish top tier.
Along with his two Barcelona teammates, Sandro Ramirez and Munir El Haddadi, the Croatian teenager has been included in the 40-member shortlist for the Golden Boy 2015 award presented by Tuttosport.
Having been considered among the Europe’s top-rated youngsters, Alen Halilovic has been given the recognition he fully deserves.
Barcelona are made to keep a close tab on their player and could be tempted to recall him in January even. There is no doubt that Halilovic will be ready to step in the fight for a place in the first team sooner or later.
Having in mind that Pedro was transferred to Chelsea during summer and that Rafinha Alcantara is still unavailable through his injury, Enrique could turn toward his young jewel.
Return to Camp Nou?
As he awaits the weekend encounter against Atletico Madrid, Halilovic was asked about the possible return to Barcelona. Having learned his lessons the hard way, the talented playmaker is in no hurry to go home.
Halilovic reiterated that his objectives were to keep improving, growing and learning at his current club before a return to the Spanish champions.
Barcelona loanee received the Player of the month award at Sporting Gijon in October, which was his second consecutive accolade.
Now a team-focused and group-oriented player, Alen Halilovic generously thanked his teammates claiming that it would have been impossible to achieve such a feat without their help.
A different player he has become and the future is bright for the lad.