By Chris Myson
Manchester City are set to win the race to sign Alen Halilovic, the Dinamo Zagreb sensation who has been coined the ‘Balkan Lionel Messi’.
Roberto Mancini’s side have beaten off fierce competition from clubs around Europe, most notably Manchester United and Real Madrid, both of whom have long been credited with holding an interest in the 16-year-old wonderkid.
City officials have been in Zagreb since Monday trying to thrash out terms to bring the starlet to the Etihad and an agreement is now in place for a deal that could eventually be worth around £9 million.
Halilovic is the latest impressive graduate from Dinamo Zagreb’s academy, which has also produced stars such as Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, Vedran Corluka and Mateo Kovacic.
The attacking midfielder has already been touted as the finest Balkan player of his generation despite the limited amount of first-team experience has picked up so far.
He made his senior debut off the substitutes’ bench in a 3-1 win over bitter rivals Hajduk Split in September, an appearance that made him the youngest ever debutant in the Croatian top flight at 16 years and 102 days.
Just 10 days later Halilovic broke another record - this time becoming the league's youngest ever goalscorer after netting with a superb Messi-esque chip in a 4-1 rout of Slaven Belupo, while last month he became the youngest player to play for Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League when he appeared against Paris Saint-Germain.
Once the transfer is announced, he would become City’s seventh signing of the season following the arrivals of Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia, Maicon, Scott Sinclair, Matija Nastasic and Richard Wright.
While Mancini's men were drawing 1-1 to Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night, Halilovic was getting another small taste of European action, coming off the bench for the closing stages of Dinamo Zagreb's defeat to Porto.
Halilovic is a Croatia youth international, currently playing at under-17 level for his country.
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