Weight of the Name
From the first time he stepped on the football field at Dinamo Zagreb, the Croatian starlet Alen Halilovic has been drawing comparisons with one of the greatest players of all time – subsequently his teammate at Barcelona – Lionel Messi.
Bearing a moniker of any sort puts great load on anyone’s shoulder and when it comes to being called ‘The Balkan Messi’ such a nickname can go on to determine your faith as a footballer.
Unfortunately for the 20-year-old Alen Halilovic, the (nick)name only filled his path to prominence with bumps he has so far been unable to avoid.
The youngest-ever debutant in the history of Croatia’s greatest Dinamo Zagreb was transferred to Barcelona in 2014, but was not given a single bow in the first-team before club officials finally chose to let him of the hook and sell his contract to Bundesliga side Hamburger SV.
The total of 30 appearances for Barcelona B, during which Halilovic expressed his frustration over the lack of opportunities, followed by 36 La Liga matches on loan at Sporting Gijon were not enough to convince Barcelona hierarchy that Halilovic should be given a shot at the brightest stage.
The €5.5 million transfer to Hamburg – with the €10 million buy-back clause – was meant to offer an escape route for the player Europe is still waiting to realise his full potential.
It offered nothing more than additional frustration and disappointment for a boy who seems to be making all the wrong moves at all the right time, but for the Catalans as well who now believe Halilovic lacks mental strength and character to make it on the brightest of stages.
They ended up sanctioning the move to Germany against their own will as they wanted for player to go to Valencia instead.
Los Che even agreed to pay the €5 million fee, but the Croatian starlet did not agree a salary and the deal failed. Barcelona firmly believed that a move to Valencia would be a natural continuation of the progress he had made at Sporting Gijon and that his football path would lead him back to Barcelona in due time.
Only 6 Bundesliga appearances for a side locked in the relegation struggle – with 6/4 betting odds to drop down to Bundesliga 2 – are firm testament to wrong choices which could end up costing Halilovic his bright future.
La Liga Return
At delicate 20 years of age, young Halilovic has gone through more than what many players dream of during their entire careers. It would be foolish to assume Alen’s career is as good as over, but the Croatian talent is standing at the crossroads that could go on to define his path.
Sporting Gijon manager Abelardo Fernandez would welcome Halilovic back with open arms, but is the midfielder ready to bow his head and humbly return to less extravagant places than those to his own liking?
It would appear so.
Halilovic should be forgiven his rash and thoughtless choices as everybody deserves to be given the second – or in Alen’s case – the third chance. The youngster has reportedly contacted Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez, pleading for help regarding the next club. Could that be the sign of redemption?
Several La Liga sides have already expressed clear interest into bringing back Halilovic to Spain with Real Betis, aforementioned Sporting Gijon and Espanyol all willing to take him on.
Although the obvious choice imposes himself, Halilovic is not the boy you can fit in any of the available patterns and moulds, which is why we should not be surprised to see him end up at Barcelona fierce city rivals Espanyol.
The sport section of the Croatian media outlet Jutarnji List have spread the word of Halilovic getting close to signing for Quique Sanchez Flores’s side which – for the faithful Barcelona fans – would be just another dagger into their Catalan hearts.
With deeply-rooted differences dividing the two clubs and pushing them so far apart despite the geographical nearness, Barcelona and Espanyol traditionally rock the Spanish football every time they go head to head in the Derbi barceloni.
And with Halilovic closing on the move to Cornella-El Prat the damage to any Barcelona future would be irremediable.
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