Croatia teenager Alen Halilovic is poised to join Barcelona from Dynamo Zagreb and will initially play for the club’s B team, coach Gerardo Martino said on Saturday.
Although the move is yet to be officially confirmed by either club, the 17-year-old took to social media to share his joy with the world that he has signed for Gerardo Martino’s men.
“Thanks Dinamo Zagreb for everything!!” the three-times capped Croatia international wrote on his Instagram account. “My first club and biggest love!! Now is time to move on to Barcelona.”
The young attacking midfielder, dubbed the ‘Balkan Messi’ after Barca’s Argentina forward Lionel Messi, has made three appearances for Croatia and is seen as the country’s next outstanding player.
His debut off the bench in September 2012 in a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Hajduk Split made him the youngest ever debutant in the Croatian top flight at 16 years and 102 days. Ten days later the attacking midfielder broke another record – this time becoming the league’s youngest ever goalscorer after netting with a superb Lionel Messi-esque chip.
“These negotiations, or the bid to sign this player, started in 2010,” Martino told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s La Liga game at home to promoted Almeria.
“He is coming here to play for the B team,” the Argentine added.
Halilovic has undeniable talent and, considering Dinamo’s modest financial status, it was no surprise that the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United have been scouting him since he emerged as a star-in-making 17 months ago. Upon his emergence from the Dinamo youth ranks, there was genuine belief within the club that Halilovic was the best player in a generation to emerge from a club which has produced the likes of Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar.
However, Alen Halilovic might have some explaining to do when he rocks up at the Nou Camp in the summer – after it was revealed that he has a Real Madrid tattoo.
Halilovic, who was a transfer target for Tottenham, was in Spain this week to complete his transfer to Barca, with the La Liga giants paying £12million to sign him from Dinamo Zagreb.
But perhaps the club will be wishing they kept the receipt – after his love for deep rivals Madrid was revealed.
In a snap posted on his Instagram account a few months ago, and since deleted, Halilovic showed his love for Real with a ‘Hala Madrid’ tattoo on the inside of his right wrist.
In Halilovic, Barca are certainly getting a player with huge potential, a player who could develop into a world class attacker, but the fee of €10m is in danger of immediately piling the pressure on the teenager’s shoulders. Since he first shone at Dinamo early last season, there have been further flashes of brilliance but Halilovic has struggled to maintain consistency in a team where, in recent years, the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Milan Badelj dazzled at a similar age.