Under the backdrop of Luis Suarez, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez's transfers, Alen Halilovic's move from Dinamo Zagreb to Barcelona, for an initial fee of €2.2 million, has understandably gone slightly under the radar.
However the diminutive 18-year-old turned heads on his unofficial debut, against Recreativo de Huelva, despite only playing forty-five minutes.
For the sake of Halilovic's development, the Croatian midfielder is starting the season off in the Segunda Division, featuring for Barcelona B. Barça's B side contains some extremely promising youngsters, namely Munir El Haddadi, Elohor Godswill and Adama Traoré, so he will be in good company. A midfield partnership with Sergi Samper could be a glimpse of the future, with both players expected to star for the first-team in the coming campaigns.
Can Barça hold him back?
As a player who made his club debut in the hostile atmosphere of the "Eternal derby" at the age of sixteen, before representing his country in the same year, Halilovic isn't the type of player to be phased by a challenge. Whether he will complete the season with Barça's B side remains to be seen. If his debut against second division side Huelva was anything to go by, the Segunda Division will be a stroll for Halilovic.
Why he fits Barcelona
Halilovic is a player in the Barcelona mould. He is often compared to compatriot Luka Modric, given both his similar stature and playing style. However Halilovic is arguably more aggressive in attack than Modric was, or is, especially since he joined Real Madrid. Training with the likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta will improve Halilovic rapidly, and hopefully take his game to the next level.
Watch: Halilovic's Barcelona debut
Is there a place in the side for him?
In theory no. With Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Alex Song, Rafinha, Javier Mascherano, Seri Roberto and fellow Croatian Ivan Rakitic all competing for a place in the midfield trio, there would appear to be little room for Halilovic. Nevertheless, injuries and loss of form could see his inclusion.
He offers genuine attacking threat, with a propensity for dribbling, something only Iniesta really offers. Busquets, Song and Mascherano are all defensive minded, whilst Roberto, Rafinha and Rakitic offer energy and guile, but none can inject pace into the game in the same way Halilovic does. If he impresses when called up for Copa del Rey games, Enrique might be convinced to give him a role in the first-team.
So whilst bigger transfers have taken the limelight in La Liga, Halilovic has the potential to have a major impact in La Liga next season. His introduction may be gradual, as Barça err on the side of caution, but there is no doubt he has the ability to feature for Luis Enrique's side straight away. When he gets his chance, there will be no looking back!
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