New Barcelona wonderkid Alen Halilovic not ready for Messi comparisons

The Dinamo Zagreb wonderkid has announced that he will be signing for the Catalans on a five-year contract, but despite his undoubted talent he is not prepared for the first team
By Luke Matthews

It was a winter of discontent for Barcelona. Not only did they not sign anybody in the transfer market, but the chaos surrounding Neymar's move last summer saw their president resign and the club accused of tax fraud allegations that they continue to deny.

However, a month on from the madness of the January, the Catalans have secured one of the hottest talents on the planet by swooping for Croatian wonderkid Alen Halilovic in a deal worth an estimated €10 million from Dinamo Zagreb.

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 Croatia international wrote on his Instagram account. "My first club and biggest love!! Now is time to move on to Barcelona."

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-the-making 17 months ago.

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.

Despite the clamour of interest, and even coming close to moving to Tottenham last summer, it was Barca who convinced him to part with Dinamo in June - when his first professional contract ends - to give him the chance to link up with the likes of Lionel Messi in the future.

Miniature Messi | Halilovic has been likened to the four-time Ballon d'Or winner and future team-mate

Far from concidentally, the left-footed youngster's pace, dribbling ability, deadly finishing and deceptive strength have earned him comparisons to Barca's Argentine superstar - perhaps prematurely.

Barca are certainly getting a player with huge potential, a player who could develop into a world class attacker, but the fee of €10m (£8.2m) 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.
Still, Halilovic has an ability that only the top attacking players in world football possess: to ghost past players with ease in the final third. It’s this talent which undoubtedly persuaded Barca to fork out such a sum for a teenager despite already having what appears to be a conveyor belt of talented attackers emerging from their B team.

If Halilovic is to be a success at Camp Nou, Barca must keep the pressure off the young Croatian. This points to immediately putting the player to the B team to continue his development, alongside players of a similar age and talent.
Dinamo could never offer Halilovic a similar alternative - he embarrassed opponents at times representing Dinamo’s youth teams but the pressure, on occasion, has proven a little too much in front of the roar of the Maksimir Stadium. With that in mind, the Spanish Segunda Division could prove to be the perfect tonic for Croatia’s biggest talent.

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 players like Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar. Now he begins his road to leaving those names in the dust and living up his miniature Messi moniker.