Barcelona win race for Croatia wonder-kid Alen Halilovic
Highly-rated Croatian teenage midfielder Alen Halilovic, a target for several Premier League clubs including Tottenham, is set to join Barcelona from Dinamo Zagreb.
Barca boss Tata Martino confirmed the Catalan giants have held several rounds of talks since 2010, with the aim of bringing 17-year-old Halilovic to the Nou Camp.
“He is coming here to play for the B team,” Martino told reporters. Halilovic is set to follow in the footsteps of a string of current Barcelona stars, including Lionel Messi.
Replacing ageing metronome Xavi Hernandez is one of Martino’s top priorities at Barca, along with signing a centre back to take over from injury-plagued veteran Carles Puyol.
Tottenham, who are 7/2 shots for a top-four Premier League finish this season, were interested in signing Halilovic because, despite his tender years, he has already drawn comparisons with former White Hart Lane playmaker Luka Modric – now at Real Mardid.
Capturing Halilovic will be something of a coup for Barcelona (7/2 to win the Champions League) as he is rumoured to have attracted interest from Bayern Munich (favourites to retain the trophy at 2/1).
Halilovic made his senior club bow in Zagreb’s 3-1 Eternal derby win over Hajduk Split, becoming the youngest ever player to appear in the Croatian top-flight.
He then broke the record of youngest goalscorer in that division 10 days after his debut.
Already earning three caps for his country, Halilovic became Croatia’s youngest senior international when then-coach Igor Stimac handed him a debut against Portugal in June 2013.
Croatia are in hosts Brazil’s World Cup group after reaching the tournament finals by beating Iceland in the play-offs. Niko Kovac is now their national boss, and will also take charge of games against Cameroon and Mexico.
Whether Halilovic will be called up for the World Cup remains to be seen. Croatia are second-favourites behind Brazil both to win the group and qualify from it, so back them at 7/1 and 11/10 respectively.