Alen Halilovic: What happen to the ex-Barca youngster dubbed the next Modric?

Robin Bairner
Robin Bairner
  • Updated: 19 May 2021 14:09 BST
  • 4 min read
Alen Halilovic: What happen to the ex-Barca youngster dubbed the next Modric?

Birmingham City announced the signing of Alen Halilovic on a short-term contract on Monday, but this was not how the future was supposed to be planned out for the former Barcelona youngster.

For a period, Halilovic was supposed to be Croatia’s next great midfielder. He received flattering comparison to Luka Modric and debuted for Dinamo Zagreb when he was just 16.

Now, though, he finds himself playing with a side struggling in the lower half of the Championship table.

  • Ancelotti provides major update on the Real Madrid futures of Ramos and Bale
  • Ancelotti thrilled with Real Madrid return, demands more goals from Benzema
  • There will be a queue of clubs ready to sign Raheem Sterling, says former Man City star
  • Tottenham in talks with former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte
  • Halilovic’s bright beginning at Dinamo

    He set a string of records in the two seasons he spent in Dinamo’s first team. He was their youngest debutant, goal scorer and Champions League player. Moreover, he impressed sufficiently to earn a move to Barcelona.

    Dinamo Zagreb447
    Barcelona B304
    Sporting Gijon (loan)363
    Las Palmas (loan)382
    Standard Liege (loan)140
    Birmingham City*00

    The deal was struck on March 27, 2014. During the summer he would make a €2.2 million (£1.9m) switch to Camp Nou, whereupon he was expected to initially play with the reserves. Nevertheless, big things were expected of the Croatian teenager.

    It proved to be an ill-fated move for all parties. The first murmurings of trouble came when news broke Barca were to be banned from signing players for two transfer windows for signing underage players from outside Spain. It was appealed, allowing Halilovic’s transfer to go through as planned, but it was a bad omen.

    Halilovic would make just one senior appearance for Barca in his first season in Spain, that as a substitute in the Copa del Rey in a 4-0 away win against Elche. It proved to be the only time he would play for the club.

    The following term was spent on loan at Sporting Gijon. This would prove to be arguably the best season on his career to date as he played 36 times and scored three goals in La Liga.

    Having failed to progress in the manner that Barcelona had hoped, the Croatian was sold to Hamburg in 2016. The Catalans made a profit on the youngster, selling him for €5.5m (£4.8m) and insuring themselves against an error by inserting a buy-back option worth €10m (£8.7m) into the deal.

    Alen Halilovic career statistics

    A young journeyman

    In Germany’s top flight, he again failed to impose himself and by January he was back in Spain on an 18-month loan deal with Las Palmas. He was mostly used as a substitute during his first months at the club and was involved in just a couple of wins as their form plummeted alarmingly.

    His fortunes did not improve much the following season. He was sent off against Valencia in the opening day of the season, having been awarded a starting chance, and when he returned he soon picked up an ankle injury that saw him miss three months.

    He scored a couple of goals when he returned, but again Las Palmas were sliding towards the foot of the table and they were relegated following a 16-game winless run. During that time, they scored just seven goals.

    Las Palmas elected not to buy out Halilovic’s deal and instead he moved to Milan on a free transfer. He signed a deal that ran until June 2021 but within six months he was on the move again. Standard Liege signed him on an 18-month loan but it was cut short less than halfway through. Heerenveen gambled on hi signing, but he proved ineffective there, too.

    Birmingham is, therefore, Halilovic’s ninth club in a career that already needs some salvaging at the age of just 24.