When Barcelona acquired Alen Halilovic from Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb in the 2014 summer transfer window, he was billed as one of the best young talents in world football. Many of the major European clubs were after his coveted signature and it was considered somewhat of a coup that the Catalans managed to get him and that too at a very reasonable price.
It was clear from the outset that Halilovic would be part of Barcelona B in his first season at the club and his progress there would determine where he ends up in subsequent seasons. With the squad that Barcelona possessed when Halilovic first came in, and especially in positions the Croat feels comfortable in – attacking midfield, it was quite clear that it would take a lot of effort from the youngster to be able to force his way into the first team.
Halilovic spent his first season in Catalonia with the Barcelona reserves and went on to play 29 games in the team that were competing in the Segunda Division at the time. His 29 appearances yielded four goals and a solitary assist. The 19-year-old also went on to make his debut for the first team in January 2015 when he came on as a second half substitute in a 4-0 Copa del Rey win over Elche.
But despite Halilovic’s best efforts, Barcelona B were relegated to the third division. The Croat was definitely better than plying his trade that low in the Spanish league pyramid and, as a consequence, various loan deals to first division teams across Europe were assessed before Sporting Gijon agreed to the demands of Barcelona of giving their prodigy a certain minimum minutes as part of the deal.
In a team in financial turmoil, Halilovic managed to hold his own and earned 36 league appearances to help his side evade relegation on the final day of the season. He contributed five goals and as many assists to the team’s cause as they continue their top division stay.
Halilovic is a versatile player. He favours to play as a number 10 dictating play from attacking midfield position behind the forwards. However, he is also capable of being deployed on either wing.
Future at Barcelona
Now that his season-long loan is over, Barcelona are understood to be looking for another similar arrangement before making a long-term call on his future. The Catalan outfit have no dearth of midfield talent and they are already assessing the possibility of buying Denis Suarez back from Villarreal. It is perhaps in the best interests of Halilovic to spend another season away from the Camp Nou before coming back as a first team regular.
Prospects with the national team
Son of a former Croatia international, Sejad, Halilovic holds the record for being the youngest debutante for the Croatian national team. He is expected to be part of the Croat squad for the upcoming European Championship and is likely to serve his country for a long time to come.